Andy Robertson spent the final day of the English Premier League season watching a “frightening” Tottenham Hotspur run riot and he knows the threat their stars pose but, with more at stake next weekend, he is clinging to the belief that Scotland are capable of collective resilience.
The White Hart Lane club walloped seven goals past a Hull City side already relegated, with Harry Kane maintaining his dazzling end-of-season form, weighing in with a hat-trick, while Dele Alli also netted a double. Both will turn up at Hampden on Saturday intent on adding to their season’s haul and stopping them will be as tough a task as Gordon Strachan’s men have faced in this World Cup qualifying campaign.
“Obviously I was on the bench for the first 70 minutes, as the manager had made a few changes and a few of us were carrying knocks, but in the first half they were frightening. The way they moved forward and the way they took their chances. I’m sure it was great to watch as an neutral but when it’s happening to your team it’s never nice.
“You look at Harry Kane, the way he played in that game and the fact he scored eight goals in the last week of the season, he’s obviously bang in form and he is someone we need to be wary of. But we need to be wary of all of them really.
“They might play a couple of different players and set up a bit differently so we’ll give them respect but we have to make sure they’re wary of us as well and realise we can give them some problems of their own.”
In the last head-to-head, at Wembley, in November, there were spells in the match when the Scots did just that. But some individual lapses proved costly and before they knew it, Strachan’s men were losing 3-0. The difference in individual quality was telling that night but Robertson believes in the team ethic. Allied to the momentum the Celtic contingent can bring to the squad get-together, he claims that a tight team effort would be enough to deny the Group F leaders the points and catapult Scotland right back into the reckoning as they continue battling for a place at next year’s World Cup, in Russia.
“It is tough because I think England have got world-class players and guys who play at Champions League level every week and that’s something we don’t really have apart from the Celtic boys. They compete at the highest level all the time and that’s something we have to be wary of but we have to believe that all 11 of us can show up and get a positive result.”
Robertson scored against England the last time the Auld Enemy ventured north of the Border, in 2014. England won 3-1 and in the immediate aftermath the bite of defeat ate into the joy of getting on the scoresheet. But he has since learned to savour it. “Looking back I do take pride in what has been my first and only goal for my country. I’d much rather it had come in different circumstances but I do like looking back on it.When I got back to Hull the boys were happy that England had won but annoyed that I had scored against them. At least I had that over them. But they had the result which was the most important thing.”
As his career continues to progress, Robertson is evasive when pressed on whether he will be one of the players contesting honours and European places at the top of the EPL next term. Widely rumoured to be heading for Anfield as one of Jurgen Klopp’s first summer signings, the 23-year-old Scot refuses to be drawn on the speculation.
“The only thing I can really say is that my club has been relegated and all the players face uncertainty. Our manager has moved on already. There’ll be people moving on, but for now all I’ve said is I’m focusing on this game in front of us because it’s so massive for the country. All I can do is play as well as I can on the day and after that I’ll worry about my future.”
If the deal, said to be worth around £8 million, is agreed, it will serve as a pick me up for former club Dundee United who could rake in £800,000 thanks to a sell-on clause. It would assist a club doomed to another year in the Scottish second tier, but while Robertson recognises the value of a team on the park, off it he says he has to be more singular and selfish in his approach. “It’s not something that’s on my mind. When I moved to Hull, Dundee United got money for me then, as they did when Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay Steven and Ryan Gauld all moved on.
“If I move or if I stay it has got to be right for me, I can’t be thinking about my previous clubs and stuff.
“Don’t get me wrong, if I can help in any way possible then so be it. But that won’t be on my mind when I sit down after this game with the people I need to talk to and decide if it’s right for me to stay at Hull or look to move on. That’s not something I’m going to worry about until well into the summer so I can focus on this game.”
The fact is Scotland have long-since been forced to focus on what is immediately in front of them, taking every international outing one game at a time.
A solitary triumph in the opening four games in the campaign prematurely vaulted them into the territory of must-win fixtures. Victory over Slovenian arrested the disappointment and moved them to within two points of second place. It bolstered confidence but a result against England would be the ultimate boost to belief.