Robertson hopes Celtic old boy McNamara stays put
The Dundee United full-back accepts that a young manager with as much ability as his own boss will always be linked with other posts – especially so in this case given McNamara’s past as a player at Parkhead. But, while the season ended in disappointment for United with their defeat by St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup final, Robertson is confident they can go on to improve on what they did achieve during the campaign just ended, provided, that is, that the playing squad and managerial team are kept intact.
“I think that he has had a good season and everyone is looking at his style of play,” Robertson said yesterday. “Personally, he has done a lot for me. I still think, though, that he has unfinished business at United, as do we players after the cup final defeat. There are going to be rumours that he’s going to be linked with Celtic, but I think he’s happy at United and not finished there.
“I can understand that 100 per cent [why McNamara should be linked with Celtic]. His style of play is very modern just now. By getting the ball down and playing, we’ve attracted plaudits for our way of football.
“But I believe there is still more to come from him and there is still more to come from us. Hopefully, he doesn’t leave and hopefully none of the boys leave. That was his first full season and there were a lot of ins and outs at United. It was really our first full season together and we finished fourth and got to a cup final. Maybe we will look back on that as a success, but it’s hard to do so just now.
“If we can all stick together then there will be more to come from us next season.”
McNamara himself insisted on Saturday evening that he had no interest in talking with Blackpool about becoming their manager. The Lancashire club had approached United for permission to hold talks, but McNamara did not have to think about the offer for long before telling his chairman, Stephen Thompson, that he wanted to turn it down.
There is a world of difference between Celtic and Blackpool, of course, and any approach from the former club could be altogether harder to resist. There is a school of thought that McNamara could not work at Parkhead under the club’s current hierarchy but, even so, it appears wholly plausible that, provided he maintains his progress, he will have the chance to move to Celtic at some stage of his career. Robertson, though, preferred to steer clear of any such speculation.
“Who knows?” he said. “You just don’t know what can happen in football. All I know is that he is the United manager and will continue to be it. I think he could easily be ready for a bigger club, but he is unfinished at United as are the players. He has a good group behind him and a good management staff.
“It’s his knowledge of the game,” Robertson added when asked what impressed him most about his manager. “He’s been in football so long, and he can pass on his experience to all the players – but especially so to me and the other full-backs, because that was his position for 12 years at the highest level.
“You also have to consider his style of play, as he doesn’t like the team to just lump it up the park and play off second balls. He likes us to get the ball down and pass and I think that’s the right way to play.”
Anyone who saw United play last season is likely to understand what Robertson means when he talks of unfinished business. A team of immense promise who, at their best, produced some of the most exciting football of the past 12 months, they remain prey to spells of inconsistency. In the cup final, for example, some of their most impressive players over the course of the campaign, such as Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven, were kept very quiet.
Young and inexperienced teams always find it impossible to reach the same high standards week in, week out. Next season, McNamara’s principal task may well be to get more first-rate performances out of his stars and, if he can do that, United should be in contention for second place, as well as getting far closer to Celtic, who have just finished 41 points clear of them.
“Our aim is to close the gap on Celtic,” Robertson added. “They did run away with the league again this season. while we finished fourth but, if we can push for second, then who knows how close we can get to them?”
• Andrew Robertson was speaking at the Bank of Scotland Midnight League West Regional Finals at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium. For more information see www.bankofscotlandcommunities.co.uk/midnightleague.