Andy Robertson is proud to be flying the flag for Scotland in Saturday’s Champions League Final.
Paul Lambert remains the only Scotsman to have ever featured in the biggest game in European club football, when he played a starring role in Borussia Dortmund’s triumph over Juventus back in 1997.
Now the Liverpool left-back hopes to inspire a new generation when he takes to the field against Real Madrid.
Andy, your story has been well-documented by now – from the early setback of leaving Celtic right up to last summer’s move to Liverpool. For all you’re enjoying the benefits of your hard work now, what kept you digging in when the going got tough?
Looking back, I was always surrounded by good people. Whether it was my close friends or family, I just wanted to make them proud whenever I stepped on to the pitch. I’ve always had that hunger to succeed, so when I put my mind to something I want to do it well. I’ve had a few setbacks along the way, as people know, but I always had that belief that I could make it. On a very basic level I never doubted that hard work would pay off. Thankfully it has done.
You’re setting the benchmark now for young Scottish players and supporters but who did that for you?
Darren Fletcher was massive for every young Scottish player and especially those around my age now. Maybe we weren’t used to seeing Scottish players playing on that stage and there he was year in, year out for Manchester United and Scotland in the biggest games. He had his own ups and downs, then obviously had an operation. But he came back from that and his record speaks for itself. Looking back, Darren was a role model for me, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. A lot of people should take a leaf out of his book.
Did Darren speak to you after the switch to Liverpool?
I remember we had a sit-down earlier this season, when I wasn’t playing, and he asked how I was finding everything. Darren was a massive help and I carried his words of advice with me. He made me realise what level if club I was playing for and that I had to stick in. Darren told me to be patient. When people said that at the time it was the last thing I wanted to hear but, looking back, I know they were right. After that chat I went back to Liverpool with a really positive mind-set.
Did you ever think at any stage think it was beyond you?
I think, as a country, that we can be quite harsh on ourselves. I’ve never thought that being Scottish should mean there was any kind barrier to me getting where I wanted to go and I still feel like I can keep improving. I’m not at my pinnacle yet. Hopefully I’ll have a few more nights like Saturday to look forward to before I hang up my boots and hopefully a few of them will be in a Scotland shirt. It seems to be a big thing to people that a Scottish player is going to play in the Champions League Final, but hopefully that will become a more regular thing. I think our game is definitely moving in the right direction and we have a lot of good young players coming through.
How big a help has Kenny Dalglish been? He told us recently just how proud he is of your progress.
Kenny’s been brilliant with me, ever since I first met him after a game against Crystal Palace. He wanted to see me and have a wee chat, then said that if me or my family ever needed anything then we should just get in touch. He always messages me after games to say ‘well done’. To have a Liverpool legend – especially a Scottish one – go out of his way to help me the way he has is pretty special. He’s a great mentor to have. The first time my Dad met him was after the last game of the season, when we were heading down to my car. Kenny came over and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen Dad star-struck. I think all he could manage to say was that it was a pleasure to meet Kenny. Then he got his photo with him. He’s not usually the type to do that!
Kenny Dalglish is obviously a Liverpool icon, but the supporters seem to have taken you to their hearts as well.
It’s pretty humbling to see people who have my name and number on the back of their strip, because it’s not that long since I was in their position as a young football supporter. Especially given the price of names and numbers these days. ‘ROBERTSON’ can’t be the cheapest! The club already means a lot to me and I’ve settled in well. My son, Rocco, was born down there and he’ll be nine months old on the day of the Champions League Final. He’s getting big, even if he’s just a bit too young to make the journey. Dad actually had him running around kicking a ball the other day so that’s a start.
What advice would you give Rocco or even a younger version of yourself?
If I was to give anyone advice it would be to work hard and never lose that belief in yourself. If you get a setback then it might just be the opinion of one or two people. They don’t speak for everyone. If that’s enough to put you off then you’re never going to succeed.
On a similar theme, Jurgen Klopp seems to have instilled real belief in you all.
The manager has been brilliant with me and his man-management is second to none. He speaks to all of the players all the time. None of the stuff you see if just for the cameras. It’s what he’s like day in, day out. He’s honest and he’s genuine. He’s the leader and creates this feel-good factor around the place. Now we have one last big step to take together. We could carve our own part of history.
The man in the opposing dugout will forever be synonymous with Hampden after his incredible strike in the 2002 Champions League Final. How much do you remember of that?
I remember everything about it. I actually went to the fan zone with my Dad in Glasgow then watched the game at home. It was an iconic goal. I’m not even sure my hips would allow me to get my leg high enough to strike the ball like he did but I’ll settle for one going in off my backside on Saturday.
What will be going through your head come kick-off?
I just want to leave it all on the pitch and see where it takes us. I’ve not really had the time to sit back, reflect and enjoy it all so far. I’ve just tried to stay in the moment. Come the summer I’ll maybe get the chance to draw breath but games like Saturday are what you grow up dreaming about. I’m determined to make the most of it.