Andrew Robertson recalls running out at Ibrox with just 1,000 Queen’s Park fans there to cheer them on – so he will not be daunted by Dundee United’s trip there in the Scottish Cup next month.
Robertson was with the amateurs last season when they went to Ibrox on league business and were followed by a small but noisy band of Spiders’ supporters. Now he is gearing up for next month’s last-four clash with Rangers at the controversial semi-final venue after Ally McCoist’s men saw off minnows Albion Rovers in Monday night’s quarter-final replay.
United, who won the cup in 2010, are set to ask for 20,000 tickets for the 12 April glamour game as the row rumbles on over allocation, with the Taysiders demanding an equal share of the briefs at the home of their opponents. And full-back Robertson reckons compared with the backing he received on his last visit to Govan, United’s travelling support has the potential to act as an extra man.
Robertson, who was at the Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth yesterday to promote the the Vauxhall School Futsal Finals, said: “The ticket allocation is nothing to do with the players. We can’t focus on that. That’s for people higher up to deal with. We just hope United fans turn out in numbers. Once the game gets going you block out the fans and get on with what you’re doing. As a player, you can’t let what’s happening in the stands affect your game. If we perform well then I think we can get to the final.
“I really enjoyed playing at Ibrox last season. The first time we went there was daunting. Queen’s Park were top of the league at that time and it was a big crowd. It was a new experience for most of us but, once the game started, we settled down and enjoyed it. We had about a thousand fans with us and they gave us good backing. With United, we’ll have more and I think our fans will turn out in numbers.”
United hope to take a bumper travelling support through to Glasgow and Robertson, who recently won his first Scotland cap away in Poland, is convinced Jackie McNamara’s men can turn on the style to clinch their place in the final.
He said: “We believe they’ll come down and support their team and get right behind us. We always knew the two semi-finals would be at Ibrox and the final at Parkhead so we knew if Rangers got to the semi finals they’d be at home and that’s what’s happened.
“Whatever number of United fans come down, it will be more than if it was a Rangers home game where you’d only have 1,000-odd supporters so we’re going to be better off than a normal league game. I’m sure the United fans will turn up in numbers and hopefully make a lot of noise.
“Whatever has happened to Rangers, their fans have stuck behind them and always been there for them and it’s still a big stadium so it will be a great experience for us to play on a stage like that.
“It’s a big park and we’ll be looking forward to playing on it. If we can get the ball down and play like we have been doing and getting plaudits for then hopefully we’ll be the team in the final.”
Robertson is pleased United now know who they’re facing in the semi-final and still has huge respect for the Ibrox club. He said: “It’s obviously nice to know who we’re now playing in the semi-final. It’s never ideal not knowing who you are going to be playing against but now we know the uncertainty has gone. Now we know it’s Rangers we know it will be a big game. If we want to win this Scottish Cup we’ve got to face everyone. You’ve got to beat the best. I think they’re still a massive club.
“You can tell that by their fan-base, training facility and their stadium. They had players like Paul Gascoigne in the past but everyone knows it’s not as good a team which they have just now. However, this team are still a very good team. They’ve just been doing things step by step and now they’ve been promoted into the Championship. They’ve done everything they can up until now so we know it will still be a tough game. It will be as tough as it ever would be. ”
Robertson, although he began his career as a kid at Celtic, has some friends who are Rangers fans and admits they’ll be rooting for McCoist’s men come the crunch occasion.
He said: “I don’t really remember the days when they had Gascoigne. I remember more when they had [Lorenzo] Amorouso and players like that. I remember when both them and Celtic were doing really well in Europe. Everyone knows the financial problems Rangers have had but they’re still a huge club. It will be as tough as ever. I’ve got a few pals who’re Rangers fans. And they still go and support their club as they used to when they were younger. They still see it as the same club as it was.
“They’ll have their blue tops on for the game. They won’t have their tickets yet as they’re just through but I’m sure they will get them.”
United swept past Rangers in the early stages of the cup last January but Robertson knows they’ll have to be at the top of their game to proceed this time round.
He said: “I remember watching that tie. But this game will be totally different.
“The squads are different, for example Jon Daly has left to go to Rangers. Nicky Law is there now who is a great player.
“They have strengthened this season, whereas last season was a bit disorganised at the start. They’ve got themselves together since after struggling to get results straight away in the Third Division.
“They’ve just ran away with the league and that’s because they’ve made some very good signings which have improved them for this season.”
“This season they’ve not faced an SPL club. But last season they beat Motherwell in the cup. It will help them this tie to see how far they’ve come when they play us. Everyone will be looking at Rangers to see how far they’ve come. But this our biggest game of the season.
“We’re trying to win the cup. There’s four teams left and any of us can win it. We’re going to push and give it our all to try and get into the final.”