Andrew Robertson takes route to the top in stride

TWO years ago this weekend, Scotland were preparing to embark on what proved to be a miserable World Cup qualifying campaign with an underwhelming goalless draw against Serbia at Hampden.
Andrew Robertson prepares to do battle with Germany. Picture: SNSAndrew Robertson prepares to do battle with Germany. Picture: SNS
Andrew Robertson prepares to do battle with Germany. Picture: SNS

The following week at the National Stadium, in front of an attendance of just 907, a teenage amateur footballer made only the eighth senior appearance of his career as Queen’s Park defeated Clyde 1-0 in the fourth tier of Scottish football.

Andrew Robertson’s remarkable career trajectory since then will next take him into Scotland’s opening Euro 2016 qualifier against world champions Germany in Dortmund on Sunday night as an English Premier League player.

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“I would hope other young players can look at my success and see that you shouldn’t give it up,” reflects the articulate 20-year-old whose early dreams of stardom were punctured when he was released by Celtic.

“Even when you are playing at the level I was at Queen’s Park, you have a platform. All you need is a chance. I got that when Dundee United signed me last year and it was then up to me to take the chance.”

Robertson has seized his in the most impressive manner imaginable. A stand-out for the Tannadice club, where he flourished under the faith invested in him by manager Jackie McNamara, the left-back’s irresistibly consistent form pushed him into the senior Scotland squad and earned him his £2.85 million summer move to Hull City.

His momentum shows no sign of stalling. He has hit the ground running for Steve Bruce’s side, already establishing himself as a first pick and looking completely at home in the highest profile league in world football.

It is equally pleasing to report that Robertson’s ego is completely unaffected by his new status at both club and country level.

“No, I’ll never get ‘big time’ or anything like that,” he says. “It’s just the way I am. I’m still the same person I was at school two years ago. There is no point in changing. I don’t look back on what I’ve done so far, I just try to take everything in my stride.

“I have done a pretty good job at Hull so far and I just want to continue that. I still need to work on my overall game. I don’t think I am anywhere near the complete article that I feel I can be. Everything I get praised for, I can still work on and get better. I need to improve my heading, weak foot and even my defending and going forward, basically.

“I didn’t expect to go straight into the Hull team, but that was the same when I went to Dundee United last summer. I just trained hard and the manager put me straight in. You just have to believe in yourself, there’s no point being nervous about it. I do get butterflies in my stomach before games, but that’s not really nerves, it’s just getting ‘up’ for it.

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“It is another step up, playing in the Premier League. It’s a quicker tempo and, as I say, there are a lot of things I still need to work on. When we played Stoke City the other week, we played for 80 minutes with ten men and it was the hardest game I have ever played in, just in terms of the physical demands. There is a big difference.

“I’ve been working on a programme in the gym to bulk myself up, which is something I need to do having been a part-time player just over a year ago.”

For Robertson, one of the novelties of his new environment has been his weekly appearances on Match of the Day this season.

“That’s been a wee bit weird,” he smiles. “People who sadly stay in on a Saturday night, and I include myself in there, always look forward to Match of the Day. So it has been strange for me to see myself on it now.”

There is a price to pay for achieving that status as Robertson reveals he has become well-versed in dealing with a tradition among footballers welcoming a new signing to their club.

“I’ve had to sing a song three times in three years now,” he says. “That’s the only downside to moving clubs! I go for ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers. It’s maybe not what you’d expect from someone my age, but it’s easy to sing and the rest of the lads usually start clapping and join in by the second verse, which makes it easier.”

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan is unlikely to consider it a gamble to name Robertson in his starting line-up on Sunday, given the positive impression he made when winning his first two caps at the end of last season against Poland and Nigeria. Not that the player himself is taking anything for granted.

“I wouldn’t say you ever get comfortable at this level,” he said. “Maybe, once you are a bit more down the line you might, but if you felt that something isn’t right, you should always be challenging yourself. I don’t think I’ll ever get really comfortable because hopefully I will keep adapting and improving. I’ve got two caps and I’ve enjoyed them both. It’s a pleasure representing your country – this is what every boy dreams about.

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“We are obviously in for a tough test on Sunday with Germany being the world champions. I don’t think there is any good time to play them – they are clearly at the top of world football right now and this is their first competitive game since winning the trophy in Brazil.

“But we have come a long way in the last 18 months and we’ll try and play our own game against them. You want to test yourself against the best and see how it goes.”