This interview with Andy Robertson is from the Euro 2020 preview issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe now and never miss an issue!
Andy Robertson was four years old when Scotland last played in a major tournament. The Liverpool left-back remembers more about the family party thrown for that opening game of the 1998 World Cup than he does the 90 minutes that followed.
The iconic image of captain Colin Hendry leading out his team-mates against Brazil, however, is etched into his memory. No one needs to tell Robertson – who once earned a living in the office at Hampden Park – what it means to be following in his footsteps at Euro 2020 as Scotland captain...
You’re in an elite group of players who’ve led Scotland into a major tournament. It’s been a while since Colin Hendry had the privilege. What does it mean to you?
Everything. Colin is someone I’ve not had the chance to meet yet, unfortunately, but I can only imagine what was going through his head in 1998. Even if they don’t remember it happening, everyone who loves Scottish football must be able to picture those scenes before the Brazil game. I vividly remember John Collins scoring, because everyone at my aunty and uncle’s party went crazy.
Colin will rightly go down in history as a great Scotland captain and a great player. I know how fortunate I am to be in the position that I’m in. When I first joined the squad, it was a privilege to play alongside Darren Fletcher – he was my captain, and if he was still playing, I’d be happy to hand the armband back to him because he lived and breathed Scotland. It’s a shame so many good players over the years missed out on tournaments. We worked hard for it and earned it by taking advantage of the extra lifeline through the Nations League, but we have to make sure this becomes a more regular thing.
You’ve had big games for Liverpool and the World Cup qualifiers with Scotland – is it nice to be able to look ahead to the Euros now, and allow yourself to get excited?
It is. A lot of the Scotland boys have been involved in important games with their clubs, so the week-to-week focus has obviously been on that. It’s nice to think that the next time we’ll all meet up, it’ll be for something pretty special. As a country, we’ve been waiting on this since 1998.
There was an outpouring of emotion after qualification was secured in Serbia, and it clearly extended beyond the exhausted players on the park...
It’s for everyone. Someone like Frank Reilly, our national team administrator, I’ve known for a long, long time. He was involved with Queen’s Park when I was a player there, and I remember it was good to have a familiar face when I was first called up for Scotland – I was still fairly new to Dundee United and I’d only played against guys like Scott Brown a couple of times. People like Frank have been on the rollercoaster. The players, staff and supporters have been through it all. The only regret was that we didn’t have 4,000-odd members of the Tartan Army in Serbia, as they’ve more than earned a night like that.
Your daughter, Aria, will be too young to make sense of it all, but it must feel special to share the excitement with your son?
Rocco loves football and now knows a lot of the players. I’d love to say I’m his favourite Scotland player, but I’m not! That, of course, is Super John McGinn. I’m sure most people in Scotland would pick him, so I can’t fault that. I miss the family when I’m on international duty, but he understands now why I’m away. He talks to a few of the lads on FaceTime. He loves that. He also loves his sticker book – it’s my way of teaching him who everyone is. It’s good that, like me, he can watch Scotland in a tournament at a young age. I just hope he doesn’t have to wait as long for the next one.
As captain, you’re the face of the team in good times and bad. Does it feel as if a weight’s been lifted from your shoulders?
Not yet. It might after we’ve played in the tournament, when those selected will have that experience to call on. It definitely won’t take away our drive to qualify for future tournaments. We’d love to make the World Cup – that’s been reinforced by the manager, his staff, me and vice-captain John McGinn. We can’t wait as long for the next one; we want to be the generation that gets us back to how it was in days gone by. The manager has created a club atmosphere here in an international environment, which isn’t always easy. With that, you can achieve a lot.
Have you had extra duties in the build-up?
I’ve been involved in some of the planning for the camp. The guys have run a few things by me, but good people like Frank and [head of high performance] Graeme Jones know what they’re doing on that front. I can’t imagine how much planning has to go into it, never mind with all of the added layers of complication at the moment. Entertainment in the team hotel will be important, because you don’t want the boys to have too much time on their own. We’re away for a long time – the little things can make a big difference.
You’ve talked before of how fortunate you feel to be going about your business as a footballer during an unprecedented 12 months or so – but it must have felt like a long road to get this far?
We’re in a very lucky position. We’ve been able to do our jobs, see our friends and colleagues on a daily basis, and travel safely around the country. So many people haven’t had that luxury. I’m just glad it’s slowly but surely getting back to normal. When you have a wee dip in the season, or if you’re feeling a bit tired, that’s where the fans often come in. You feel that support in games. You still get that backing on social media, but it counts for something in person on matchday and I know I’ve really missed that – probably more so when I’ve watched games on TV. Stadiums weren’t built to be empty. It’s felt like a long season in that regard, and it’s been very tame at times. It looks like we’ll have some supporters in for the Euros, and that’s great – football is nothing without the fans. It’s never been more true than it is now.
Your personal backstory is the stuff of legend. Have you been able to live in the moment or does it still seem a bit of a blur?
I’m fortunate to have been involved in some big occasions now. The first Champions League final [in 2018] sticks out. Losing was obviously the biggest regret around that, but the other thing that stuck with me was not enjoying the build-up enough. I was stressing about getting my family and friends to Kiev, instead of thinking, ‘It’s a nice feeling to be stressing about getting them all out to watch a Champions League final’. The second time around, I made sure to take it all in. I enjoyed the build-up and seeing everyone get so excited, and I want to try to do the same for the Euros. As determined as we are to repeat this, you never know what’s around the corner. It’s important that we live in the moment because so many former pros have told me that it’s very easy to let your career fly by.
Do you ever take the time to think about how far you’ve come, or what this summer will mean to millions of Scots?
We’re all effectively wee boys who grew up kicking a ball around in different parts of Scotland. We loved the game, we had big dreams, and everyone took different paths to get here. We’ve all worked hard to get where we are, so we deserve to enjoy the feeling. It’ll be great to have the full nation behind us. We really felt that in Serbia.
What about on the pitch?
For all I’ve talked about just enjoying the moment, we’re still going there to do a job and compete. The aim is to get out of a very tough group and see where it takes us. We have to believe that we can get the results we need. I think we’re getting better at the mental side of it, and the gaffer is always telling us to believe in ourselves. As a nation, we’re guilty of sometimes talking ourselves down. Hopefully the best days are ahead of us and this can be the start of something.
This article first appeared in the June 2021 issue of FourFourTwo
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