Hatem Ben Arfa will be remembered by the beautiful game as another one of its prodigious talents that fell by the wayside. Those who have trouble remembering his one-off season with Hull City in the 2014/15 season can be forgiven, as the side were ultimately relegated and he barely featured. While he himself failed to live up to his talent, the Frenchman still had a good eye for it, as he made a prophetic observation about his teammate Andrew Robertson by saying:
“In fairness, they’re just not very good… But there’s one who can potentially be super, super, super good – and that’s Robertson.”
But when Andrew Robertson arrived at Anfield in the summer of 2017 for 8 million pounds following another Hull City relegation, his signing was met with little fanfare. On the contrary, it was seen as underwhelming and written off in Merseyside. The fans expected a more high profile solution to a glaring problem at left-back, having seen Alberto Moreno fall off a cliff and James Milner slotting into the position as a makeshift alternative under Jurgen Klopp. Speculation surrounding the likes of Porto’s Alex Telles and Scottish sensation, Kieran Tierney struck a definite chord with Kopites. To them, the acquisition of Robertson was slapping a band-aid on a gushing wound.
A little over a year later, his is an emphatic story, one of a meteoric rise where he’s had to scrap every inch along the way. You have to go back a fair bit to realise that is just how he likes it.
A Glasgow lad, born and bred, Robertson suffered an early setback when he was cast off by his beloved Celtic as early as the Under-15 level. Youth coach Chris McCart looked down, literally and figuratively, upon his diminutive frame and he was shipped from Celtic Park before he knew it.
A year ago today this man became a Red… 🔴
Who could forget THAT Andy Robertson 70-yard gut-busting press!! 🏃💨💨 pic.twitter.com/1rOeKbKU1U
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 21, 2018
The Scotsman described this time as the kick to the backside that shaped him as both a player and a man. He rebuilt his career from the ground up in the third division with Queen’s Park, working away till eventually a return to the Scottish top-flight with Dundee United came his way in 2013. He seized his chance in the big time, and how.
A fine solitary season with Dundee, in which Robertson won the PFA Young Player of the Year award, brought him within Hull City’s sights. Off he went to the Premier League, but a disappointing season saw his upward trajectory of the last couple of years come to a halt with relegation to the Championship. Having taken the long road back to the top-flight, Robertson showcased that he is made of sterner stuff and gave an excellent account for himself. His marauding runs and gritty defending up and down the Tigers’ left flank emerged as one of the few bright spots of their season. However, his efforts alone could not save them from a second successive relegation.
Liverpool gave him a second chance at life in the Premier League but Robertson had a job on his hands. The fans seemed disgruntled as the Scotsman was seemingly miles away from the upper echelon of Europe’s left-backs while names such as those of Benjamin Mendy and Alex Sandro’s possible departures were sprung in the discussion. To make matters worse, Alberto Moreno was enjoying a renaissance and took his place in the first team as the season got underway. It wasn’t until the Spaniard’s injury in December, in the last of the Reds’ Champions League group games, did the door to the first-team open for Robertson. Having whiled away his time on the bench thus far, it can come as no surprise to those who know him that he really made his chance count.
There has been no looking back for the redheaded Scot who is now among the best left-backs not only in England but in Europe as well. What stands head and shoulders above the rest of the class is his enduring consistency, rarely dipping below the very high levels of output which are now expected of him. The fact that he never stops pressing the opposition out of possession doesn’t hurt either. In fact, it makes one wonder as to what took Jurgen Klopp so long to be won over by Robertson, who has now established his presence as an indispensable component to the German’s blueprint.
life at this age is rubbish with no money #needajob
— Andrew Robertson (@andrewrobertso5) August 18, 2012
Now beginning his second season with Liverpool after a fantastic first, perhaps the finest moment of Robertson’s career came in early September when he was announced as the new captain of the Scottish national side, a fitting honour and yet another reminder of his meteoric rise. From selling concert tickets for five pounds an hour outside Hampden Park as recently as 2013, the 24-year old is now leading his side out onto the same pitch, with the armband up his sleeve.
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This moment is also a testament to the leadership qualities he has displayed time and again every time he has stepped out in red. Liverpool fans will be hoping that long may it continue as he looks to one day put on the armband for the club and join some Scottish greats in the progress – from Souness to Hansen, St. John to King Kenny.
A few months ago, looking back at the past few years, Robertson summed it up best. “Sometimes you do think, ‘Bloody hell – I’ve come a long way. What a journey’”.
What a journey indeed.
Liverpool Archive here
Hull City Image via Telegraph
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