Scotland’s debacle in Kazakhstan may have been the bitterest possible pill to swallow, but for captain Andrew Robertson the trip could have left him poisoned.
The Liverpool defender travelled incognito with the Tartan Army out to Bologna from Edinburgh on Friday night for this evening’s San Marino game after missing the 3-0 thumping in the Astana Arena with a mouth abscess. The severity of the condition became the subject of cynicism in the swirl of sneering over players’ commitment to the nation side’s cause. The 25-year-old believes that is grossly unfair. And he also defended Scotland team-mates Ryan Fraser and Callum Paterson over their opting out of the playing on the plastic pitch in Kazakhstan as a consequence of past cruciate ligament injuries.
“Some people made it out to be a filling… it was definitely more than that,” Robertson said of the abscess down the right side of his mouth that required the removal of a tooth and four stitches. “The thing is, it had to come out within 24 hours of them finding it, because if it had burst and gone into the bloodstream it could have been nasty. I really wanted to be there, but it just wasn’t possible.
“I’m not worried now, but I would have been on Thursday. A bang on the face then might have burst the stitches. I’ve still got the stitches in, but they’ve settled down. Everyone knows what toothache’s like, it’s one of those dull pains that just won’t go away. Right now I’m as 100 per cent as I can be. It was sore on the flight over to Bologna on Friday, which made me realise how bad it might have been had I done eight hours to Kazakhstan. I think I’d probably have tried to jump off the plane.
“In a way, the pain I was in on the flight over to Italy was a good thing, because it told me how bad it would have been had I not had the op. The stitches would have been in danger with the pressure.
“I’d been feeling it in our game away at Fulham the weekend before and hadn’t got much sleep on the Friday or the Saturday and got through it with painkillers and two cans of Red Bull, but luckily we’d travelled down by train rather than in the air. But I then had to get a flight up to join the [Scotland] squad and it really got sore.
“People are going to have a pop about myself, Callum Paterson, Ryan Fraser and others who pulled out altogether, but we’re trying our best to play for our country.
“For Rysie and Cal, it’s impossible to play on AstroTurf, they haven’t done it since they were 15 or 16 and when Cal’s had such a bad knee injury in the past 18 months, it’s medically impossible to turn on that surface.
“So even if he’d gone there, he’d probably have been a man down. People question whether we want to play for our country, but the three of us have then gone Edinburgh to Bologna then two hours down to the team hotel to play 24 hours later, so there’s no doubt we’re committed to it. We’re desperate to play. I was devastated not to play on Thursday and Liverpool will back that up, because they had to step in and stop me going.
“Sometimes, the fact is that you need to think of your health – because what use is it for Ryan Fraser to try and be a hero for one game then end up out for six months? It kills him, it kills Bournemouth, it kills Scotland. The team that went out should have been good enough to beat Kazakhstan in my opinion, but we weren’t at the races, simple as that. The fallout from it all’s something we can’t control.”