TAndy Robertson’s rise was fairy tale in Scotland long before his good times with the international team. There are only parallels between a child’s journey from stacking supermarket shelves to the top of club football and what has appeared in the colors of his country.
The 1-1 draw between Scotland and Canada in a friendly match in 2017 saw less than 10,000 spectators on Easter Road. A year later, Hampden Park was more than half empty due to visits from Israel and Portugal. Campaign after campaign failure had drained the Scottish public’s energy. Robertson’s perceived conflict with Kieran Tierney for the left-back position created a narrative that clearly failed to bother any player. Tensions were regularly running high between the Scottish side and the media, who clearly wanted things to get better.
“The last 18 months have been really amazing,” Robertson said ahead of Hampden’s full match against Ukraine in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday. You can feel how the atmosphere has changed in the camp. The guys and the staff put themselves together really well.”
It was nothing more than when Scotland defeated Denmark in front of the cheerful scenes of crowded Hampden at the end of 2021. Robertson, whose season with Liverpool only ended on Saturday in the Champions League final that they lost to Real Madrid, said: “We did it in a full house and I can’t To tell you how different it makes I’ve played with such a small crowd in Hampden The pride he gives me in front of 50,000 is unbelievable I hope this continues and I know it’s up to us It’s up to us to keep up the positive performances to keep the fans there, but it It was excellent.”
Steve Clarke broke the spell while overseeing promotion to Euro 2020 after Craig Brown led his country to the 1998 World Cup, Bertie Vogts, Walter Smith (twice), Alex McLeish (twice), George Burley, Craig Levine and Gordon Strachan led a string of failed qualifying campaigns. Robertson has no problem with players who have lost a certain level of confidence.
“It was because of the performance,” he says publicly. The country was not behind us and I don’t blame them. We showed them that we can get results, we can qualify for the tournament and now it’s about getting to the next tournament. We didn’t want to be a one-hit team, qualify for the European Championship and that’s it. We wanted this to be the catalyst for more and now we have a chance to make it happen. It is important that we take the confidence of the last 18 months in these matches. Qualifying for the World Cup would be huge for our country.”
Scotland has played only three matches in the Eurozone. The frustration that their participation could and should have made more sense seems to have fueled subsequent thoughts. “We now have 23 players who have been in a tournament, which can only be of value because we’ve waited so long to get back into the tournament,” Robertson says.
“In the end we wanted to get out of this group. We knew it was going to be difficult: Croatia and England, two great teams, the Czech Republic too. The performance against England was really good, the first half against Croatia was really good, the game against the Czech Republic will remain under the radar, but I I thought it was a really good performance. We just weren’t clinical enough. We can do a lot of positives with us, but we’re back home in the group stage and we want to do better. But we have to come to tournaments to prove it.”
The background has changed a lot since the World Cup qualifying draw ended. Ukraine will arrive in Glasgow almost three months later than planned, with the weight of public opinion behind it. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has only anything to do with football as every non-Scottish – perhaps even a few Scots – would want Oleksandr Petrakov to lead his team to Qatar. Robertson, who will crown his 57th international match, and his companions find themselves in the strange situation of shattering that dream.
“Of course we have great sympathy for the people of Ukraine,” says the Scotland captain. “I think it’s fair to say that everyone in the Scottish FA and this team have supported them from the start. What we saw there is horrific. For 90 minutes or 120 minutes, we need to separate our minds. We want to come to the World Cup, we have to be ready for the challenge and the emotions that come with it. Ukraine will provide it.
In his turbulent second term, MacLeish deserves credit for appointing Robertson as captain. Under Clark, this group has grown en masse. In normal times, this is of course not the case, and despite the details of the FIFA rankings, Scotland have a strong belief in their victory over Ukraine. Wales is waiting for the winner.
“He led us to believe,” Robertson says of Clark. “He made us think we’re a good team. I think with our players, the level we’re playing at [domestically] High, but it was always about getting that together in a team. Sometimes we just don’t have the right balance. Formation and tactics.
“The worker and the staff brought a breath of fresh air. I have a really good relationship with him and that always helps, but everyone has the same thing. We now have a team where we all show up, training is always competitive, and we make it difficult for the manager to pick a team. We now have options.”
That and hope for the World Cup. Robertson played a major role in another beloved story.