“We wish them all well in the AFCON,” he said in his pre-match press conference, as manager Patrick Vieira continues his isolation. “It’s a really important tournament.
“I came here to Palace from the African continent, having been Technical Director of the Moroccan Football Federation. I know the great work that’s going on on the African continent to aspire to be the best level possible.
“We wish our players all the best out in Cameroon. We want all our players back as soon as possible, albeit if they are successful that might take a little longer.
“It’s an incredible tournament that we’ll be watching closely, but obviously we want the three players back in the squad as soon as possible for us.”
Wilfried Zaha, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Jordan Ayew will travel to the tournament in Cameroon, but Roberts says this gives other players a chance to stake a claim for a place in the side.
“That’s why you have a squad of players,” he explained. “Every player has been carefully recruited by the club manager, to make sure of that.
“We knew this situation was going to arise at this time of the season. They are three important players we are going to miss over the next few weeks.
“But being aware of that, we have players who can step in and get their opportunity, like Jean-Philippe Mateta did. It’s important when the opportunity comes that they take that with both hands.”