Liverpool’s third signing of the summer details his remarkable journey from the fourth tier of Scottish football to Anfield in the space of four years
Andy Robertson enters the Bibliotek boardroom on the third floor of the Althoff Seehotel in Rottach-Egern, on the banks of Lake Tegernsee, unassuming and dressed in a tracksuit.
Had the rejection of his boyhood club Glasgow Celtic at the age of 15 diverted his career in an alternate direction, the Scotland international would have found himself in the same gear – sans the Liverpool logo and sponsor branding.
Sitting down for his first interview with external media since making a £10 million switch from Hull City, the left-back reveals he could have become “a PE teacher or done something in sports science” if he did not advance from amateur side Queen’s Park having been cut from the Bhoys.
Aged 18, and working a full office shift in the corporate department at Hampden Park in-between training and lining up for matches on a Saturday, Robertson’s parents advised him he’d have to contemplate life away from the pitch if he didn’t turn professional after his first senior season at the Scottish League One side.
It was simply not feasible for the defender to continue subscribing to the club’s moto: Ludere Causa Ludendi – to play for the sake of playing.
“Queens Park was amateur so you do not get paid,” he explained. “You need to make a living, and for the first few years when I was in the youth side, it was fine because I was still at school.
“Then when I left school, I broke into the first team. I was grateful to my mum and dad because they said, ‘we will give you this season to try and push on and make that dream a reality, but after that you might have to look at other options’, but luckily it all fell into place nicely.
“We knew the season was going quite well and by the January or February, we knew that full-time clubs were in for me. I didn’t have to panic.
“I managed to keep my form going in the second half of the season so we knew there would be options at the end. A few clubs wanted me, but we chose the right one in Dundee United. It was perfect for me.”
Initially, it took Robertson a year to dust off his despondency at being told he was too small and weak for Celtic, who were transitioning into a more physical approach under their new head of youth, recruited from Motherwell.
But he learnt to transform his disappointment into his drive, which fast-tracked what Jurgen Klopp termed an “incredible personal journey.
In four years, Robertson shifted from the fourth tier of Scottish football to zoning in on a regular starting spot for the Anfield side.
“At Dundee United, I managed to go in and do everything that maybe they didn’t quite expect,” he details.
“They were more giving me two years – first year to try and settle in, break into the first team and have a couple of games, and then second season to really kick on. But, luckily, in the first season I just hit the ground running and I made the position my own. Then the English came calling.
“Steve Bruce managed to get hold of me. That went on for a while between Dundee United and Hull. I managed to get over the line and I became a Hull player. It was probably the same again. “I remember Liam Rosenior getting injured the day before the Premier League (2014-15 season) began.
“I wasn’t probably meant to start, but Steve Bruce gave me the nod and said: ‘Go on, do what you can do’. I haven’t really looked back since Hull and then obviously this move.”
Now at Liverpool, under the guidance of Klopp who shares a similar against-the-odds story, the 23-year-old wants to ensure his upward curve continues as he competes with James Milner for a place in the XI.
“I think the manager wants to know the person as well as he knows the footballer,” Robertson says.
“He was asking me about my story. He told me about himself and wanted to know all about me.
“I saw the quotes when I signed and he obviously liked my journey from the bottom of Scottish football to where I am now. It has driven me along.
“I don’t like it if I’m not part of the starting 11. I don’t like sitting on the bench even when it was very rare at Hull to rest during cup games.
“I’m not a good spectator, I’m a nightmare when I’m injured and I’m not playing.
“I’ve come here wanting to be first choice and it’s obviously up to the manager as the competition will be big for the position, but it’s one I’m hoping to come out on top in.
“I respect the other players and I know how good a job they can do but I’ve just got to bring my A-game and hopefully it’s enough for me to first choice.”
Robertson, who is expecting his first child at the end of August and is still hunting for a house, is still early into his education of what Klopp demands from his full-backs.
“I know how their full-backs played against me, and how hard it was when they were so high up the field and attacking,” he says.
“Defensively, they didn’t give you a sniff either and that’s what I want to do too. The manager has said that he will go through things with me this week to show what he wants from his full-backs and his wingers, so I know what to ask of the person in front of me and the centre-backs alongside me.
“I have a rough idea that he likes his full-backs to be high when we’re attacking. But first and foremost we’re defenders and we need to keep it tight at the back.
“Training has been a different standard and I’ve really enjoyed it. I feel capable of making that step up, but it will take time.
“I’m playing with world class players and I need to get used to that in training. Every day I feel like I’m adapting more and more and fitting in so long may that continue.
“We’ve got two-and-a-half weeks until the start of the season so by then I should be right up to speed and ready to hit the ground running.”
When Robertson now rewinds to his 15-year-old self, angry at being let go and shouldering so much disillusionment, he is proud of how he powered through it and appreciates where his perseverance has landed him.
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me,” he succinctly concludes.
Images courtesy of Liverpool FC