The Northern Echo reported yesterday how Mr Roberts, who was goalkeeper for nonleague Rushden and Diamonds, was found dead at his home Higham Ferriers, Northamptonshire, on Tuesday.
Johnson, who grew up with Mr Roberts in east Durham and remained close friends said: “I can’t believe what’s happened.
“I’ve lost one of my best friends and it was someone so young. I grew up with him and we went through football together.
“I can’t put it into words. It’s the worst day of my life.”
The heartbroken 23-year-old was preparing for a key European game for City against Juventus in Italy last night.
He told the Hartlepool Mail: “I am going to play in honour of Dale and dedicate my performance and hopefully a victory to his memory.”
Johnson said he had known Roberts since they were ten, when they both played in the Peterlee and District League.
They also played for Cleveland Juniors Football Club before they attended Easington Comprehensive School together. Both were members of Middlesbrough’s youth academy. While Johnson stayed on with
the first team and Roberts moved to Nottingham Forest and then to Rushden. He was also an England C International.
Johnson, who played at Wembley with Dale in an under-11 Peterlee junior side in the late Nineties, said: “He was a funny lad, he loved the banter.
“He used to come and see me in Manchester when I moved to City and we would go out.
“He had everything going for him and would have gone on to future success.”
Northamptonshire Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious and a report was being prepared for the coroner.
Dale was left devastated earlier this year by an affair between his fiancee Lindsey Cowan, 25, and then teammate Paul Terry, brother of England and Chelsea star John Terry.
Afterwards 31-year-old Paul Terry signed for Darlington and was appointed captain.