The Silence of the Tartan Army: Why Doesn’t Andy Robertson Get the Recognition He Deserves?

The Silence of the Tartan Army: Why Doesn’t Andy Robertson Get the Recognition He Deserves?

Andy Robertson’s status as the most decorated player in this Scotland team has perhaps been more of a burden than a blessing for the defender over the last five years.

To other nations, Robertson is the star man and golden boy in Steve Clarke’s team. He is the Scotland player whom those south of the border wish was English. So, it may be a surprise for people who watch Robertson regularly for Liverpool to learn that he is not the Tartan Army’s favourite son.

Scrutiny is always greater in your own country than elsewhere and being captain means Robertson carries an extra level of pressure on his shoulders.

The defender was still nailing down a first-team place at Liverpool when he was given that responsibility in 2018, at the tender age of 23.

As he steadily became a prominent part of Jurgen Klopp’s successful Liverpool team, winning the Champions League and Premier League, expectations north of the border soared.

Andy Robertson is not the Tartan Army’s favourite son – but he has the chance to win the hearts of a nation against Hungary 

John McGinn is the fans' favourite and for some the man they would like to see as captain

John McGinn is the fans’ favourite and for some the man they would like to see as captain

Robertson is the only man to captain Scotland in major tournaments since 1998. Earlier this month he broke a captaincy record when he wore the armband for the 49th time, surpassing the previous record held by George Young. This evening, he could make history again by becoming the first man to lead his country to the knockout stage of a major tournament.

Despite all that, there are some who still think Robertson has not lived up to the hype.

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Scotland fans have taken over Germany in the last week, but it is not their captain’s name they are singing on the streets or in the terraces.

John McGinn is undoubtedly the supporters’ favourite, the cult hero and the man who some would like to see wear the armband.

It does not seem to matter that McGinn has been below par in the opening two games of this tournament. His superb performances in the past and consistent form for Aston Villa has rightly seen him become a loved and adored figure. There is clearly pride across Scotland at what Robertson has achieved, but curiously he does not seem to get the same admiration.

Robertson was already facing questions about whether he should be starting at left back and whether Kieran Tierney, who was having to play out of position at either right back or centre back, should instead take his team-mate’s place, when he was given the armband.

But it was in 2019 when Robertson’s worthiness of the captaincy role was challenged. The defender missed Scotland’s opening qualifying game for Euro 2020 in Kazakhstan due to an abscess on the right side of his mouth, which required emergency surgery.

Robertson is understood to have offered to take a solo flight after the operation, but his request was denied due to a combination of medical and bureaucratic grounds.

Scotland could make the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time by beating Hungary

Scotland could make the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time by beating Hungary 

There had been calls for Kieran Tierney to shift to left-back and take Robertson's place

There had been calls for Kieran Tierney to shift to left-back and take Robertson’s place

Scotland suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat and a backlash ensued.

His commitment to the national team was questioned, despite Robertson making himself available for the subsequent game against San Marino.

‘Some people made it [the surgery] out to be a filling… it was definitely more than that,’ Robertson said of his procedure, which required the removal of a tooth and four stitches.

‘The thing is, it had to come out within 24 hours of them finding it, because if it had burst and gone into the bloodstream it could have been nasty. I really wanted to be there, but it just wasn’t possible.’

More accusations were levelled at Robertson when the defender took part in Liverpool’s end-of-season parade ahead of Scotland’s World Cup play-off with Ukraine in 2022.

Robertson was publicly supported by manager Clarke and the likes of Ally McCoist, but fans criticised the defender for drinking beer 72 hours before the game and Scotland’s subsequent defeat brought further ire from the Tartan Army.

Was their anger legitimate or is Robertson just an easy target? The question often asked of players who are successful with their clubs but less so with their countries is why they cannot replicate their performances on the international stage.

Robertson of course plays with a completely different standard of players at Liverpool than he does with Scotland. The two teams also play different systems. He has more licence to get forward with Liverpool than he does with Scotland.

Robertson has more licence to get forward at Liverpool and plays with a different standard of team-mate

Robertson has more licence to get forward at Liverpool and plays with a different standard of team-mate 

When Robertson first came into the national team, he played without fear. After a memorable debut, then Scotland boss Gordon Strachan said: ‘Andy came on there and the first time he picked it up he drove about 30 yards. I thought “that’s fantastic”. Absolutely no grey area, I’m going to do what I do. I loved seeing that first touch.’

It was performances like that and his goal against England in 2014 which perhaps led people to think he could be Scotland’s answer to Gareth Bale, capable of winning a game on his own and dragging others up to his level.

Did the weight of the armband change how Robertson approached playing for his country?

The defender himself admitted last year that he has had to grow and mature into his leadership role.

‘It took me a bit of time to get used to being able to put that armband on,’ Robertson said.

‘I was quite young when I got it and I felt as if I could solve everything. I took a lot on. The older you get, the more you realise you just have to control the things you can control.’

Robertson’s journey from Hampden Park ball boy to Scotland captain is a rags to riches story and one of resilience. Released by Celtic at the age of 14 for being ‘too small’, he played part-time football for Queens Park and famously posted on social media that life at that age was ‘rubbish with no money’.

His humble upbringing is no doubt one of the reasons why he has generously donated to foodbanks in Glasgow and set up his own academy to give youngsters in Scotland more opportunities to play football.

Robertson may have spent the last 10 years living away from Scotland, but he has never forgotten where he came from.

With Scotland’s defence severely weakened by the absence of Tierney and Ryan Porteous’ suspension, Robertson knows he has to step up if his side are to beat Hungary and reach the last 16 of a major tournament for the first time.

Robertson came into the Euros off the back of a difficult season with Liverpool, which was blighted by injuries. While no Scotland players came out of the 5-1 defeat by Germany with any credit, Robertson was one of many who was much improved against Switzerland. His driving run from defence and pass to Callum McGregor, who set up Scott McTominay’s goal, showed shades of the Robertson Liverpool fans get to watch every week – and the one Scotland fans so desperately want to see.

In 2014, before his move to Hull City, a photo emerged of Robertson and three of his Dundee United team-mates – John Souttar, Ryan Gould and John McGovern – having a kickabout in the local park. Back then, Robertson was still a young boy with a dream. Ten years on, he has the chance to write his name in history. Perhaps if he does, the Tartan Army will finally be satisfied.

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