Robertson rise shows clubs value of playing long game

If Gordon Strachan needs a poster boy for his forthcoming blueprint to improve Scottish football, he need look no further than Andrew Robertson.
Andrew Robertson was more than happy to answer a call to temporarily step back into the under-21 set-up. Picture: SNS GroupAndrew Robertson was more than happy to answer a call to temporarily step back into the under-21 set-up. Picture: SNS Group
Andrew Robertson was more than happy to answer a call to temporarily step back into the under-21 set-up. Picture: SNS Group

The Hull City left-back provides what is both a cautionary and inspirational tale of how the game in this country can still develop exciting young talent capable of performing at a high level.

Released by Celtic at the age of 15, Robertson was almost lost to the game before his career was revived by Queen’s Park.

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His progress since breaking into the amateur club’s first team three seasons ago has been meteoric, a stellar campaign at Dundee United earning him his £3 million move to Hull and a regular place in Strachan’s senior Scotland squad.

The 21-year-old remains hugely appreciative of the second chance Queen’s Park gave him and was happy to be back at Lesser Hampden last night to promote ticket sales for Scotland’s European under-21 Championship qualifier against Ukraine in Paisley tomorrow. Robertson has been gratified by the news that Strachan intends to apply himself to a wider challenge of revitalising grass roots football and player development in Scotland.

He believes there could be no better candidate for the role and hopes that part of Strachan’s manifesto will urge clubs not to be too hasty in determining the worth of young talent.

“If anyone asked me who was the right man to take Scottish football forward then I would back Gordon Strachan one million per cent,” said Robertson. “The way he goes about his business and gets his coaching points across, there’s no doubt he’s the man and that’s the reason all the boys were delighted he is staying on as Scotland manager.

“It’s hard to say if there are flaws [in the current systems of youth development] but I think it’s more about teams being patient, like Queen’s Park are.

“Some people are quite quick to, as soon as a bad result comes, to look at the youth boys and they are the ones who get punished as such.

“Luckily, I’ve played for two great clubs in Queen’s Park and Dundee United. Even when the results were bad, they still stuck with the youth.

“Dundee United are probably the best for it just now. Even though they are struggling at the moment, you can see all the players they have brought through over the last couple of years.

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“In the season I was there, they always stuck by the youth even if we were going through a sticky spell.

“It was hard to take when Celtic let me go, but the focus and drive was still there to become what I wanted to become.

“Don’t get me wrong, the next couple of years were tough and it took me time to find my feet at Queen’s Park.

“Anyone who was here at the time and saw me would admit that. In my first season, I thought I was going to get let go because I was so bad.

“Luckily, they kept on at me and the next season I excelled. I got into the first team and took my chance when I was given it.

“So it’s maybe about managers being more patient. On the flip side, I understand that if the results aren’t good, it is them who are going to lose their jobs, not the players.

“But I do think up here we maybe just need to be a wee bit more patient with players and understand it can take them time to develop.

“At youth level at Queen’s Park it was never about the results. When you win there’s nothing better, but the focus was more on playing the right way and developing players.

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“We did it right and played the same formation as the first team, so if we did get called upon you knew exactly what you had to do and how to play your position. I think that’s maybe where teams go wrong – it should be the same from first team all the way down and everyone coming through knows what to do.”

As a senior Scotland squad member with eight caps to his name now, Robertson might have been excused for heading away on holiday during the current international break.

But he was more than happy to answer a call to temporarily step back into the under-21 set-up with which Strachan is also involved this week. “I’ve played with a few of the under-21 squad before and against all of them at some point,” he said. “It is nice to come back and catch up with them again.

“If they can see the pathway I’ve had to the senior squad and take inspiration from it, so be it. But I’ve not been treated any different and I didn’t want that. I’m just one of the boys.

“I’m still eligible to play for the under-21s so when the gaffer phoned me and asked me if I wanted to be in the squad, there was no hesitation.

“I’m delighted Gordon Strachan is staying on. There was a wee bit of doubt over his future and the fans probably played a big part in his decision after singing his name in Faro when we played Gibraltar.

“I thought they were magnificent and that’s hard to turn down. I’ve got no doubt he’s the man to try and take us to the World Cup and he’ll put everything into it.”