ROBERT Snodgrass grew up in the shadow of Celtic Park and was so devoted to the club he even wore a pair of Celtic shorts when he was training as a youth with Rangers.
For the 27-year-old Scotland international, his boyhood heroes still have a strong emotional pull as he freely admitted yesterday during a visit to his old primary school St Anne’s, just around the corner from Parkhead.
But although Snodgrass has often been linked with a move to Celtic, most recently last summer before he left Norwich to join Hull City in an £8 million deal, he insists he has always taken a more pragmatic approach to his career path.
“To be honest, a move to Celtic wasn’t close last year,” said Snodgrass. “There was some talk about it, a little bit of discussion. But when I was a Championship player after Norwich got relegated, they asked Hull for £8 million.
“That’s how highly Norwich regarded me because they had offered me a five-year contract at the time. Are Celtic going to pay that type of money? There was some contact but when Celtic realised the figures, they distanced themselves.
“There’s always that element in the back of my head, thinking if it’s meant to be that I will play for Celtic one day. But it’s no different for me now at Hull than it was when I was at Leeds and Norwich. The Hull fans have been terrific, sticking by me during a difficult time, and the first thing I’ll be doing when I’m fit again is trying to repay them and show what I can do.
“Attending this school, the dream of playing for Celtic was always in your head. But, and I’m being totally honest, it wasn’t something I thought was going to happen.
“For me, it was just a case of seeing what stage I could actually get to. For every kid it’s the same, you don’t know how far you can go until you get a bit older and things start to become a reality.
“The first thing I remember was going up to Celtic Park to watch Celtic, feeling the full effect of the stadium. When you see the players on the park for the first time, you get sucked in and it’s like a dream.
“When I started going to see Celtic, it was just before Henrik Larsson signed. We used to try and skip into the games. You would stand outside, waiting for someone who had a spare ticket and then give him the wee puppy eyes in the hope he’d give it to you! We didn’t have the money to get in otherwise.
“I still love going back to Celtic Park now, whether it’s for Celtic or Scotland games, and seeing the atmosphere.
“I trained at Celtic when I was a kid. I used to train at Rangers as well. I wore my Celtic shorts underneath my Rangers shorts when I trained there! That’s the truth. James McArthur posted a photo of me from those days on Twitter recently. I remember speaking to a Rangers coach a few years later, asking him if I wasn’t good enough for them because they never offered me anything.
“He said the fact I was wearing Celtic shorts to training, they felt I was trying to wind them up! But they were the only training shorts I owned at the time.”
Snodgrass eventually signed his first professional contract with Livingston, although he now reflects ruefully on passing up an opportunity to start his career in England.
“I’m not really one for regrets,” he added, “but one thing I do wish is that I’d gone down south sooner. I had the chance to join Blackburn Rovers but decided to sign for Livingston. It was only when I went down south that I started to eat, sleep and breathe football. There are no excuses, no distractions, you’re away from home and you challenge yourself. You take yourself out of your comfort zone and you become a man.”