Extended Piece - The Rise of Andy Robertson

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“You want to make your fans and your family proud. But it’s the people who doubt you who motivate you more.” – Andy Robertson

A 15-year-old Andy Robertson sits devastated, next to his parents in front of Celtic’s youth coaches John Sludden, John Gallagher and Chris McCart. The Glaswegian has just been released from his boyhood club, deemed “too small” he was understandably crushed by the news. Comforted by his family, Robertson feared this was the end of the road for his dream but knew what he had to do.

Robertson found himself lost by football naturally, hit with the biggest curveball possible, you’d begin to question your own goals and dreams naturally. Rejection is a bitter pill to swallow, but the reaction from a young Robertson was to prove them wrong, work harder and make a name for himself. 

It’s this dogged attitude that is visibly present in his game, a determined tackler and an even more determined worker – Andy Robertson has cemented himself as one of the top full-backs in the Premier League over the last few months; but how did he get here?

Handling Rejection and his Breakthrough

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“It took nearly a full season to get over that disappointment if I’m being honest. My first year at Queens Park, I just wasn’t good enough – I was nowhere near the standard required. But that tough period shaped me. That was the first time I had anyone doubt me.”

Amateur football at Queen’s Park was next for the now 17-year-old, he balanced a full-time job at Hampden Park taking ticket orders for Scotland’s International games – University was also on the cards, with a degree in Sports Science being eyed up.

“We trained twice a week at night and played games on a Saturday,” said Robertson, speaking to the Echo, “So I was working 9am to 5pm and then having to train at 6pm.”

His parents were prepared to give him one last chance, a final season to make it professionally or it was time to pursue a higher education. The chance came, Dundee United came calling in June of 2013 and the meteoric rise began. Robertson made an instant impact on the Dundee faithful and English clubs – in particular Hull City, who were prepared to take a punt on the then 20-year-old for £3m.

Tigers Need to Roar 

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Spending three seasons at the Yorkshire club, including two relegations and one Championship play-off winning season – Robertson grew into the player we now recognise today. Under the watchful eye of Steve Bruce, Robertson brushed up on the technicalities of Premier League football and more nuanced tactical ideas, but something was still missing.

Scoring five goals during his time with the Tigers, Robertson showed the attacking threat he posesses thanks to electric pace and a “no-regrets” mindset. All of this arguably launched from rejection. He’s got nothing to lose and you bet he will prove that on the pitch, this made him so effective in the final third where risk-taking is so crucial.

Merseyside Move and Struggling to Impress

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It was a left-field solution, relegated Hull City that had conceded 80 goals across the Premier League season and looked far from a defensively solid team. Robertson, the left-back in that side was expected to fix Liverpool’s defensive problems and replace an-overly attacking Alberto Moreno; try to connect the dots.

Liverpool fans were baffled but it was a no-brainer for Robertson: “The first time I spoke to the manager I was taken away by him and his plans,” said the Scotland International. As for Klopp, it took some time for him to be impressed by Robertson who simply wasn’t up to his standards to begin with.

Klopp told him: “You are quick, a good footballer, a good crosser, but you have to work on your defensive skills” (1) which took Robertson a while to come to terms with and then eventually improve in that aspect. “I knew then what I had to do,” said Robertson, “I used it as motivation to get better and put the time in training so, when a chance came, I’d be the most prepared I could be to go and take it.” (2)

Go and Take It…

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And take it he did. With Moreno picking up an injury in December that left him out of the squad for a lengthy amount of time – Robertson seized his chance. Pivotal in Liverpool’s Champions League run, the Scottish dynamo won over fans and critics alike. Especially a certain moment against Manchester City that I need not remind you of.

10 months on from a 5-1 win against Brighton, (His first Premier League start that was the beginning of a lengthy spell) Robertson has gone on to feature in 34 out of 41 Liverpool games in all competitions – becoming a mainstay in Jurgen Klopp’s side. Furthermore, he’s been given Scotland captaincy, a dream come true for the kid rejected from Celtic at 15. Scotland coach James McFadden couldn’t sing his praises anymore, summing up his story in eloquent fashion (3):

“From where he has come from to get to here now is incredible. For young kids that are playing football, indeed in any walk of life, if you have a setback it is not the end. He was the outstanding candidate and I am delighted for him. I think he deserves it. His desire to play for Scotland unquestionable and the fact is that he has done it the hard way.”

Plenty has been written about this story already, you’ve probably heard about the rejection, the hard-work and the doubters but it’s a story that transcends football. When you’ve set your sights on something, do not give up easily, keep chasing, keep working and things will probably turn out the way you want. Be patient and persistent and you just might end up with a similar story to Andy Robertson…

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