AS A TEENAGED player for whom the words "ability" and "attitude" were often prefaced by "good" and "bad", Robert Snodgrass turned down Celtic, Barcelona and the English Premiership. Now 22 and a fixture with resurgent Leeds United, he will not spurn Scotland if George Burley should call.
In fact, Burley has already been in touch this year, phoning the right-sided attacking midfielder to assure him he is on the SFA's radar. "He told me he was aware of how I'd been doing at Leeds and if I kept it up, who knows, I might get in the national side," said Snodgrass, a member of the Scots' Under-19 squad that lost the 2006 UEFA Championship final 2-1 to Spain.
Snodgrass realises that picking a player from the third tier in England, even one with a double-figure goal tally and player-of-the-year awards last season, would leave Burley open to criticism. "If we get out of League One into the Championship, I don't think I'll be that far off," he said. "He couldn't pick me for an important match like Holland. But if I get some B internationals under my belt, I've got a chance."
There is an earlier opportunity to pit his throwback skills against high-class opposition on Tuesday, when Leeds receive Liverpool in the Carling Cup. In a televised tie that evokes memories of Billy Bremner and Ian St John, Joe Jordan and Kenny Dalglish, Snodgrass will be the only Scot on the Elland Road pitch.
"We played two Premier League clubs in pre-season, Blackburn and Burnley, as well as Newcastle, who went down. We won one, drew two. Whatever side Liverpool field, they'll all be top players and we have to get in their faces. Promotion is our priority, but there's a good winning mentality and togetherness here. They'll know they've been in a game."
For the first time since he moved from Livingston last summer – a Gary McAllister signing only months before he was replaced by Simon Grayson – he hopes his parents will come down from Glasgow to watch him play. The family home is still in the Gallowgate, where, he recalled, there were few facilities for children when he was growing up.
"There's crime and drugs on the streets, but there's also a lot of fantastic people on the estates. When people know you're from there they tend to judge you differently, but I'm very proud to be from there. Where we stayed is three minutes from Celtic Park, and we were all Celtic fans, apart from my mum, who's a Rangers supporter. When the Old Firm game was on there was always a lot of screaming, shouting and comedy going on."
He loved watching Jorge Cadette, Pierre van Hooijdonk and Henrik Larsson yet also studied videos of Davie Cooper and Ryan Giggs. The close skills of a winger are a feature of his game, along with a powerful shot and set-piece prowess, and as an adolescent he was courted by numerous clubs. "I trained with Celtic on Mondays and Wednesdays, then with Rangers on Thursdays. I also went to Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Clyde and Blackburn Rovers, who had a base at Troon. Coaches from Celtic actually came to my door but I wasn't interested. I thought I'd get lost in the system. I wasn't ready for it. It was always my intention to go with a smaller club. I reckoned I'd get more of a chance."
He opted for Livingston and has no regrets about finally saying "yes" to a club who also developed Graham Dorrans, now of West Bromwich Albion, and Joe McKee, recently captured by Burnley. Snodgrass, given his senior chance at 17, scored a stunner against Dunfermline which the press likened to the strike that announced Wayne Rooney's arrival for Everton against Arsenal.
There were sweet goals against Rangers, too, and he was part of Archie Gemmill's Scotland Under-19 pool for the European tournament in Poland. In the semi-final against the Czech Republic he came on for the injured Steven Fletcher and immediately helped create the winner for Calum Elliot. "But I also got booked. I didn't actually know until afterwards that I was suspended for the final. That was heart-breaking; I had tears in my eyes.
"The boys did really well in the final. There's been a lot of doom and gloom since the Holland game, but anyone watching them play Spain could see there's still some great talent coming out of Scotland."
That autumn, Barcelona offered a trial but again Snodgrass, who had already rebuffed Blackburn, "didn't want to take it". At the time he cited "personal issues" and today prefers not to revisit the episode. Suffice to say he ended up not at Nou Camp but at Forthbank, being sent on loan to Stirling Albion to rediscover the plot.
"I was young and naive. I didn't have the advice I have now and made mistakes. I didn't understand it was about attitude as well as ability. Some of the coaches thought I had a bad attitude, though I was never a bad person about the place. I learned a lot in my last year at Livingston and even more since coming to Leeds, as a player and on the sports science side. I feel I'm more mature now, more professional."
Why choose Leeds when he had rejected giants of the non-sleeping variety? "I just felt they were under-achieving and had been so close the previous season. Also, there have been so many Scots who've come here and done well down the years."
One of their number, Eddie Gray, identified a kindred spirit in his fellow Glaswegian's touchline trickery. When McAllister was using the newcomer as a substitute, Gray urged him to be patient, keep working and his chance would come. The message from Burley was almost identical. Snodgrass aims for a similar outcome.
THE BOYS OF 2006
THE Scotland Under-19 squad who reached the final of UEFA European Youth Championship have experienced mixed fortunes since losing 2-1 to Spain in the final in Poland, with only Steven Fletcher so far graduating to a full cap. Here's what happened to the boys of 2006:
At Montrose, after being freed by Hibs in the summer. Was in goals when Hibs won the 2007 League Cup final.
Gravesend-born right-back who was with Norwich City during the Scots' run to the final. Now with Leyton Orient.
Still at Hearts where he is a mainstay of the team at left-back with over 100 league appearances to his name.
Captain of the U-19 side but failed to make first-team breakthrough at Celtic. He left in the summer to join Swindon.
Another Celtic player who has struggled to step up. Now on loan at Swindon.
Scored winner in the semi-final against Czech Republic. Still at Hearts.
Biggest success story of 2006 side. A full international and now with Burnley following 3m move from Hibs. Missed the youth final through suspension.
Joined Leeds from Livingston. Also missed 2006 final through suspension.
New Zealand-born winger was at Celtic, but now plays in Australia. Has switched allegiance to country of his birth and made his full debut for New Zealand.
Still with Celtic but his lone first-team appearance last season came in the Scottish Cup defeat at St Mirren.
At West Brom following his 200,000 transfer from Livingston. Called up to the full Scotland squad this month.
Dundee United midfielder is still at Tannadice after various loan spells.
Kilmarnock midfielder has had loan spells at Queen of the South. Struggled to break into first team at Killie.
Sub goalie is still with Celtic but well down the pecking order.
Has made over 80 league appearances for Dundee United.
Captained Celtic U19s to 2006 league and cup double but has not troubled first team.
Released by Rangers in 2007. Joined Clyde, then Queen of the South. Now a free agent after leaving Finland's FC Haka.
Cornerstone of the Motherwell defence and a Scotland U21 and B international.