This article was originally published on Tales of Two Halves
Andrew Robertson’s rise from a young squad rotation option to Kop fan favourite has been well documented by the media since his scintillating game against Manchester City back in January 2018. What is less well documented is the full story of his rise to stardom. From being released by his boyhood team, Celtic, to his time at amateur club Queens Park, his season with Dundee United where he was part of the Arabs team of wonder-kids, his turbulent couple of seasons with Hull City, culminating with his time at Liverpool and how he won the starting left back job from Alberto Moreno. Throw into the mix his introduction to the Scotland national team and you can see quite how astronomical his journey has been. The Scottish Roberto Carlos truly has had an astronomical rise to stardom and at 24 years of old truly has all the hallmarks to be a star for the next decade. He is energetic, passionate, composed under pressure and is a more accurate crosser than your average winger these days! Above all, he comes across as an incredibly kind and humble footballer, a trait which is especially rare in the top flights of football.
The young Scot was raised a Celtic fan, being born in Glasgow, and went to every game he could get along to during his youth. From a young age he was a part of the Celtic youth academy, no doubt believing himself to be living the dream. While his friends would be resigned to kicking a ball around the playground at school, the more talented ones being drafted into youth teams throughout Glasgow, Andy was plying his trade for the Hoops youth team. At age fifteen, he was released by his boyhood team, being told he was too small to make the grade. This was no doubt a bitter pill to swallow. Being told you can’t fulfil your dream is a hardship at any age, but at fifteen, the knock back must have been agony.
A weaker boy may have given up completely, but not Andrew. Andrew got back on the horse, signing for Queens Park, an amateur team in Glasgow who float between Scottish League One and Two, the third and fourth tier of Scottish football. He joined Queens Park at a good time, the Spiders finishing the 2012/13 season in 3rd position. He turned out 34 times for Queens Park in the league, scoring twice. There was heartbreak for Robertson at the end of the season as his side were thrashed 4-1 on aggregate by Peterhead in the playoffs. The defeat hurt, but perhaps it was for the best that he didn’t get promoted. He learned a little more about humility in defeat. So soon after being released by his boyhood team, he had enjoyed a full and successful season in a professional division in Scotland, and was now en route to joining a Scottish Premiership club. Due to being an amateur team, Queens Park don’t pay their players, rather they cover their travel costs for matches and training. The idea originally was that playing at the national stadium, Hampden Park,was privilege enough, with the club’s motto being Ludere Causa Ludendi – to play for the sake of playing.
In June 2013, then Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara raided Queens Park, signing both Robertson and his younger teammate Aidan Connolly. Robertson quickly established himself as a fan favourite at Tannadice. He helped the team to a clean sheet on his debut, and went from strength to strength from there. Being a left back comes with a lot of
responsibility at Dundee United, where Christian Kalvenes, Danny Grainger and Barry Douglas all established themselves as cult favourites during their stint as left backs at United.
He was part of a golden generation at Dundee United. The squad that had lifted the Scottish Cup in 2010 had almost all moved on by the start of the 2013/14 season and in their place was a young, hungry set of players, all of whom were desperate to stamp their authority in the top flight. Andrew Robertson shone out alongside Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay-Steven, Nadir Çiftçi and Ryan Gauld during the season. With such an array of attacking team mates, it is impressive that Andrew Robertson stood out not just for his defensive skills, but also for his offensive play. He would bomb up and down the wing, seemingly untiring, and would deliver cross after cross to the forwards. He could float them or drive them. He could pass intricately around the box and he could strike a ball well. One of his most memorable goals for United came against Motherwell. He burst into the opposition half, received a pass and drove into the box, firing beyond the goalkeeper with the conviction of a clinical forward.
Despite playing some of the finest football from a non Old Firm team this decade, it was easy to forget that this United side were still so young and largely inexperienced. In a bizarre season where Rangers were in the third tier of Scottish football after their liquidation and reform, and with both Hibernian and Hearts relegated, the chance was there for United to secure second place. They dropped far too many points along the way, however. When they won, they won with style and swagger, but they showed signs of sloppiness at times too. They reached the Scottish Cup final against St Johnstone that
season, and were firm favourites going into the game. They were unable to lift that trophy, with the entire side appearing to be a little overwhelmed by the occasion. For the second season in a row, Robertson enjoyed a strong season, only to finish it in hugely disappointing circumstances.
Andy Robertson was but a boy when he was released by Celtic as a fifteen year old, and paid his dues in a season playing for the sake of playing at Queens Park. Now, after a year in the top flight with Dundee United, he was a man. He had bulked up, accounting for his short size, and had proven to all in Scotland that he was an incredible talent, offensively and defensively, winning himself the Scottish Young Player of the Year award along the way. It was no surprise for the Tannadice board that the bids began rolling in. Dundee United sold Robertson to Hull City for just shy of £3 million – a fraction of his worth, but to the Scottish side this was a sizeable chunk of money and would go a long way to eradicating the debt that the club had accumulated over the years. After two hugely successful, if a little trophy-light, seasons in Scotland, it was time for Andy to move south of the border. The English Premier League beckoned.
The move was a risk. He was a regular at Dundee United, and a firm fan-favourite, with Tannadice Park belting out “Oh, Andy Andy, Andy Andy Andy Andy Robertson” game in game out, in adoration of their star signing. While he never quite reached that love at Hull, he was taken to by the fans who appreciated his application over the years. As far as starts go, he couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to life at the KC Stadium. In an away trip to QPR, he earned his team a clean sheet against a side that hosted former Champions League winner Rio Ferdinand. By the end of August he had earned himself the player of the month award for Hull. Things were going well for Robertson and he had taken to the Premier League like a duck to water.
Things did not go so well for Hull in Robertson’s first season with them. They were relegated, finishing 18th and amassing 35 points. Agonisingly, they finished three points below Aston Villa and Sunderland, but with a much better goal difference, leaving fans wondering what would have happened if just a couple of results had gone differently. Despite going down, Hull managed to retain the bulk of their talented squad, setting Steve Bruce’s side up well for the following season.
Robertson played just 24 times in the Premier League in his first season for Hull, but by the end of his second season, he had played over 50 games. The Tigers enjoyed a strong season, finishing 4th. Andrew Robertson played well throughout the season scoring three goals in league and cup, but there was a problem… Robertson had bad luck at the end of the season. Scottish League playoff failure. Scottish Cup final failure. Premier League relegation. And Hull were to play a very strong Derby side. Was Robertson cursed?
No. Robertson was not cursed. After enjoying three very strong seasons, he had just been unlucky. Upon completing a fourth excellent season, Hull battered Derby 3-0 in the playoff first leg, with Robertson even scoring the final goal. Derby were left short at the back in their desperation to get a goal back, and Hull countered with blistering pace. Robertson sprinted from box to box, picking up the ball just inside the opposition box, eventually hammering the ball beyond Scott Carson. The mood in the Hull camp was dampened somewhat as Derby won the second leg at the KC Stadium 2-0, but Hull progressed on to
the final against Sheffield Wednesday. Hull dominated the final, winning 1-0 thanks to a Mohamed Diame strike. Finally, Andrew Robertson could celebrate the season’s end. The celebrations were justified, but the hard work was just beginning. Hull were back in the Premier League, and they were determined to stay there this time.
The season was in turmoil for Hull before a ball was kicked, with manager Steve Bruce leaving the club amid the board’s lack of commitment on signings, amidst other issues. Usually when a new manager takes over the current crop of players have to worry about whether or not they’ll be involved in the new managers plans. For Hull, the biggest worry was not whether they would play, it was what would happen if they got injured! The squad was stretched to ridiculous measures and the entire world had them pegged down as cannon fodder, with the potential to beat Derby’s lowly 11 points in 2007/08. This was not the case at all. Hull got off to a magnificent start, beating Premier League holders Leicester City on the opening day. Robertson played a major part that season, playing the role of both a full back and a flying winger all in one. While results did dip, seeing Mike Phelan leave the club, things picked up under Marco Silva and Hull very nearly pulled off the great escape. The key word here is almost. Hull were relegated back to the Championship, finishing 18th.
Hull stayed down, but Robertson stayed up. His marauding runs and eagerness to get on the ball drew the attention of eight Premier League teams, along with PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Lisbon, but it Jürgen Klopp who convinced Robertson to join his heavy metal football philosophy at Anfield. He joined for a free close to the £10 million mark, once add-on’s were included, and once again went on to defy expectation. He took his time making his mark at Liverpool, with Alberto Moreno still very much the first choice left back, with James Milner being a tried and trusted option on that flank. Robertson played a couple of times early on, but struggled to really work his way into the first team. In early December, he got his chance.
Alberto Moreno suffered an ankle injury that saw him ruled out for a few weeks. In a packed Christmas period, Robertson got the game time that he so desperately craved and has not looked back since. At the beginning of the season, he would have bitten your arm off at the chance of starting a game at Anfield, by April, he had gotten to the point where he was such a valuable part of Klopp’s team that he was being rested in anticipation of the Champions League second leg tie against Manchester City.
It was a game against Manchester City that he won the Liverpool support over totally. He had been playing consistently well for over a month and was slowly winning over some of the fans who were unhappy at signing “an unknown Scottish guy” rather than splashing £60 million on an already established superstar. This game against City was the game that saw Pep Guardiola defeated for the first time that season. Liverpool pressed hard and fast, Andrew Robertson’s dominance over Anfield hate-figure Raheem Sterling was particularly pleasing, and his pressing from left back, chasing down Kyle Walker, bursting into the opposition penalty area and finally hassling the opposition left back saw plaudits from pundits and fans alike. It was peak Robertson. He showed maturity, leadership and desire, leading to the crowd singing his name.
Since that Manchester City game, Robertson has gone from strength to strength. He has racked up a number of assists this season and appears to have helped shore up a very leaky defence, particularly since the signing of Virgil Van Dijk. Liverpool are in a Champions League semi-final, having defeated Manchester City over two legs. He has proven to be a stand out on the field, but it is how he is off the field that has won even more people over. He heard news of a young Liverpool fan donating his pocket money to a food bank scheme, and went out of his way to write a letter to the child, thanking him for his effort and sending him a signed jersey. Not his own jersey though. As he detailed in the letter “Let’s be honest Alfie – no one wants the left back’s shirt – which is why I got you Bobby’s (Roberto Firmino) instead. Hope that’s okay.” This showcases his generosity and humbleness. A truly touching gesture from not just a brilliant player, but a brilliant man.
Not only is he dominating on the domestic front, Andrew is also a Scotland regular now. He made his full debut in March 2014, while still at Dundee United. It was a friendly against Poland, Scotland winning 1-0 away. Robertson kept a clean sheet and his desire to get forward put Poland on the back foot, impressing then-manager Gordon Strachan immensely. His first goal for the Tartan Army came in a friendly against England, played out at Celtic Park in November 2014. He burned past Raheem Sterling with ease, burst into the box and played a pass to Johnny Russell, the one-two leaving Nathaniel Clyne and Phil Jagielka in no man’s land, before slotting it past Fraser Forster. This ended up being a consolation goal as England went on to win 3-1. His only other goal came in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Lithiania in a game the Scots won 3-0. So far he has turned out 20 times for Scotland. While competition for the starting left back slot is heavy, with Kieran Tierney and Barry Douglas both in the form of their life, Robertson seems to be at home in his left wing back position for the national team.
At the age of just 24, the sky really is the limit for Robertson. He could spend the rest of his career at Liverpool. With both Jordi Alba and Marcello nearing 30 years of age, if Robertson continues with his growth, he may well be lining up in an El Classico one day! He is in the form of his life, has won over fans and pundits with his performances on the pitch and his persona off it. He is a fully fledged Scotland international and has recently become a father. Such is his magnificent career rise that it is very easy to forget that he is only 24. His rise to the top level has been remarkable and his ability to adapt and learn will see him only improve with maturity. Wherever Robertson’s career takes him, I for one wish him nothing but the best. He hasn’t been given a free pass. He has worked remarkably hard and truly earned the right to be where he is right now.The Scottish Roberto Carlos may not win the World Cup like his Brazilian counterpart, but his tenacious play, remarkable work ethic and lovable personality will certainly draw some comparisons between the two in years to come.