Whatever Dundee United’s recent woes, there’s no denying the club’s profound influence on the current Scotland set-up.
This deepened considerably earlier this week when Andy Robertson, now at Liverpool, was appointed skipper. With Robertson leading the team out, John Souttar likely to make his debut at some point and Stuart Armstrong returning to the international arena after missing the recent tour to Peru and Mexico, Alex McLeish’s side for the forthcoming games against Belgium and Albania could be underpinned by Tannadice graduates.
It’s desperately frustrating for United fans to consider this now their team is languishing in the Championship – even the money brought in by the sale of these players seems to have been frittered away. But it is a reminder of a time when anything and everything seemed possible. Sadly for United supporters, the players began fully realising their ambitions only after moves elsewhere.
“It was a young team,” recalled Armstrong. “It was exciting. It was a very young team actually. There were a couple of months where we scored four or more in every single game. – we conceded four as well! It was exciting for the fans and it was exciting to be a part of.”
Armstrong credits Stevie Campbell, the former head of youth development at Tannadice, with his development. “I think Soapy [Souttar] and Gauldy [Ryan Gauld] had a different relationship with different youth managers,” he added.
“Andy came in as a first-team player under Jackie McNamara. I don’t think it was all down to one person. It was just the opportunity for young players to go and express themselves and be free on the pitch.”
Armstrong does not recall anything special from Robertson, pictured, after he was recruited from Queen’s Park. He just arrived and slipped straight into the first-team.
“I wouldn’t say he had a wow factor because he isn’t that type of player,” he said. “He’s just a very good, consistent player, which he has been for a number of years now.”
Armstrong first played in a competitive match alongside Robertson at the start of the 2013-14 season – a 0-0 draw with Partick Thistle. It’s really not that long ago considering the strides they have both made since. Armstrong is now playing in the English Premier League with Southampton via a trophy-laden spell with Celtic. Robertson, meanwhile, is sitting pretty at the top of the same league with Liverpool.
“I’m rooming with him as well,” revealed Armstrong. “He’s been asking me to clean his shoes… it’s gone to his head! It’s a very good choice [of captain],” he added. “I’ve known Andy for years. He’s the type of player who leads by example and gives his all for the team.
“He’s someone who is very well liked in the squad and it’s a very good choice. The one thing I’ve admired about Andy is that he’s always been the same player if he was playing for Dundee United as he would be if he was playing a Champions League final.”
Although he has been used as a substitute, Armstrong is relishing the change of scene at Southampton. “Because it was Dundee United and then Celtic, it was eight years of playing the same teams over and over again. The fixture list excites me, going to these new places, new stadiums that you have watched on the TV and been to as a young boy. That’s exciting.”