BY THIS time of year, most Scottish footballers are either on holiday or at least looking forward to a break on the beach. Not Andrew Robertson.
As far as the Dundee United defender is concerned, this season is far from over, and Scotland’s match with Nigeria on Wednesday night is a lot more than just a friendly.
For him, it is a very welcome chance to get back into competitive action after the Scottish Cup final – and, he hopes, to erase at least some of the disappointment he felt when his team were beaten 2-0 by St Johnstone nine days ago.
In time, Robertson should be able to look back happily on this season as the one in which he made his breakthrough and established himself as one of the most talented players in the country.
Called up by Scotland manager Gordon Strachan for the game against Poland in March, he came off the bench in the second half to win his first cap.
He went on to be named PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year – deserved recognition for the rapidity of his progress.
But right now, despite those plaudits, the abiding memory for him of season 2013-14 is that match at Hampden earlier this month, and his team’s inability to play anywhere close to the high standards they have set for themselves.
Which is why, whether he starts at Craven Cottage or again appears as a substitute, the 20-year-old will be among those most eager to make an impression.
“That’s the thing,” Robertson said. “Some people are finished for the season, so they’ll just continue with the disappointment until next season. But I’m away with Scotland, so if we can get a positive result that might help to cap off the end of the season.
“It’s been a long one. I can look back on it and maybe be proud of what I’ve done even though it did end in disappointment. I suppose the only way I can make it end on a high is hopefully getting a good result on Wednesday.
“I don’t know much about Nigeria. We’ll look forward to looking at them and what kind of team they are, and then hopefully we’ll get a positive result.
“My mum and dad and brother are heading down, so hopefully I can get some game time again so they can see me. They went over to Poland – at least I got on before the end, so it was a proud moment for me and them. Hopefully I can do the same. They’ve got a holiday booked, so I suppose the trip to London is a wee added bonus.”
Having said he was looking forward to ending the season on a positive note, Robertson accepted that only after playing a few games for United again would he really feel that the disappointment of Hampden had abated.
“I don’t think it will go away until maybe next season when we’re all together. But at least I’m lucky enough – I’ve got the chance to get back on the park next week and hopefully make things right,” he said.
“It’s tough to reflect on it, because I don’t think anyone has got any complaints. St Johnstone were the better team. If we had maybe got a stroke of luck it could have been a whole lot different, but the thing is we shouldn’t be relying on luck.
“We should have been playing better, and if we had played better I believe we should have won it. But we never played as well as we can, and they worked hard and took their chances.
“Ryan Dow had a great opportunity in the first half that could easily have hit off the ’keeper and went in. Then Nadir’s free kick [Ciftci’s effort came back off the bar], and maybe you do start thinking that this isn’t going to be our day. But you can’t think about that – you’ve got to keep on going right to the end.
“Their second goal killed the game. It came at the right time. Other than that maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It was the quietest bus I’ve ever been on [afterwards]; the quietest changing room I’ve ever been in. I’m sure we’ll use that disappointment to help us next season.
“We had to go up to Tannadice, because all the staff – even if we did get beat – they’ve all worked extremely hard over the past couple of months. So we all had to show face to show respect to them. But it wasn’t the best of nights.
“Everyone started talking about it, and how it could have been a whole lot different. But we move on from it and we’ll look forward to next season now.
“I couldn’t get to sleep – I was just thinking about everything. But I’ve caught up on my sleep now.
“Straight after the game it’s hard not to rerun the game and think about it. But after that it was just disappointment. But like I said, the team and all the coaches will use that as motivation for next season.”
Although the left-back looks set to be an established Scotland international for a decade or more to come, at present he is still awestruck by his team-mates.
“You still look up to all these players,” he said. “After one time being with them you can’t just be comfortable straight away. They’re a great bunch of lads and they made me really welcome – and I’m sure it will be the same this time.
“Maybe you’re a wee bit more comfortable because you can talk to them and you actually know their faces and not just their names this time. It will be a wee bit easier, I think, but I still look up to them.”
While Wednesday night for Robertson is partly about getting a good reaction to Hampden, it is also about the future, and persuading Gordon Strachan that he should be in the plans for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, which for Scotland begins in September with a game against Germany in Dortmund.
He said: “We’ve been on a good run of form and hopefully you can continue that on Wednesday.
“And if you impress in training or the game then you would hope that you’d be in with a chance of being in the squad for Germany.”