Three moments. Three film clips. Three incidents that Andy Robertson dissects while sitting in an office in Melwood. Three things Liverpool fans praise him for.
Three things he considers with some pride and some regret. Three statements that tell you a lot about what you need to know about him and the unbreakable spirit that constantly stimulates the remarkable team of Jurgen Klopp.
The first moment: the last minute of the first half of the Fifa Club World Cup final in Doha a few days before Christmas, while Liverpool becomes the world champion for the first time. Sadio Mane is increasingly agitated about the way he is chosen by the opponents of Liverpool, Flamengo, and in particular right back Rafinha.
Andy Robertson is worshiped by Liverpool fans for his dedication, ability and attitude
The Brazilian has already escaped a red card for Fouling Mane, who overcooks and is booked for a foul on Rafinha. Robertson intervenes to calm his teammate. The cameras and audio feed comfortably capture his teammate. “Sadio, I understand him, don’t worry,” he says. Seven minutes in the second half, Robertson leaves Rafinha on his back.
Liverpool fans love it. They love Robertson without reservation. They love the way he leaves everything on the field. They love his sincere attitude. They love his commitment. They love his ability. They love his energy. His relentless energy. They love his selflessness. They love its lush left foot and the goals it creates. They love where he came from, that he wasn’t a gilt path to the top. They think it was great that he had to make his way to Anfield via rejection at Celtic and stints at Queen’s Park, Marks & Spencer at Sauchiehall Street, Dundee United and Hull City. They love him because he is everyone. They love him because he is one of them.
They think it’s great that Robertson, 25, doesn’t forget. He does not forget how he got here. He does not forget where he comes from and who he is. He hates it when people describe his rise as a fairy tale, because it hides the hard work he puts into it. It suggests an element of happiness. He hates it too, because it shows that the world he left behind was something to look at.
Mane became frustrated when he was the target of Rafinha during the final of the Club World Cup
The left back assured his teammate that he would take care of the Brazilian in the second half
He loved the world he left behind. He went to the M&S in Glasgow with a smile on his face. “I was at the checkout,” he says. “I wasn’t tall enough to pile up the shelves.” He loved his family’s Saturday routine: go to Parkhead to see Celtic, go to Clarkston, order a curry at the Indian takeaway, go to mass, collect the curry, go home.
That is why Robertson did not go to Dubai or the Maldives or the Seychelles during the recent winter break. He went back to Glasgow. Not much winter sun then?
“It would not have been good if I came back here with sunstroke,” he says, smiling, “so I did everyone a favor and went back upstairs and spent time on the golf course.
“For people to say it was a fairytale that Marks & Spencer left behind – how many thousands of people work in these supermarkets, I thought that was a bit disrespectful.
“These are normal lives and people can have a very good life there. How many of them are in our gallery this weekend and there I say: “I have left this terrible life behind me and have continued”. Of course I get paid better. Would I be happier with football than at M&S? Yes, of course, but if that were my life, I would be the same person I am today. Money doesn’t bring me luck, but from the age of three or four I wanted to be a football player. That was my dream in life.
The 25-year-old thinks that calling his story a ‘fairy tale’ is disrespectful to people who lead normal lives
He chose to spend his winter break in Glasgow instead of the sunny destination Dubai
“If you are a child and you say it, you don’t really believe it. Not many children have said it and will be it. Life changes. I am one of the lucky ones who have said that I have wanted to be a footballer all my life. I held that when I was in Queen’s Park and people probably laughed at me when I was 16 or 17 and they asked me what I would be.
“People looked at me and thought:” get a grip, it’s gone now. ” For me, my dream has always been to become a soccer player. That’s why I say “yes, of course”, I am happier than when I was at M&S. Forget the money. Forget everything else. I wanted to play football every day. That’s why I have the dream job. If you paid me the same wage as an M&S employee, I wouldn’t care. I think all the boys here are the same. It is the dream of playing football. Of course it is an extra bonus for me to prepare my children for life and to give them a good start in life, is an added bonus, but for me it was only about kicking a ball every day. “
Liverpool fans like that. They love him because he is a team player. They love him because of the blizzard of assists that he and Trent Alexander-Arnold have served for their side this season because they have become a runaway in the top of the Premier League. They love him because of crosses that curled over the face of the Manchester City goal last December and bounced on the head of Mo Salah, who nodded into it. They love him because he represents them the way he does. For his determination and his joy in the game. They love the fact that he runs to Anfield every time he runs onto the field. And “Sadio, I understand him, don’t worry.” They like that too.
The two Liverpool full-backs have collected an impressive number of assists over the past two years
Robertson is not sure. He does not want to be remembered as a kind of common ax person. He is not. But he thinks the Rafinha incident tells us something about the spirit of this Liverpool team that goes to the core of their intransigence.
“Everyone knows that Sadio sometimes got angry with him,” says Robertson. “I know how to handle Sadio. That was me trying to calm down my own teammate. I know that things can sometimes affect Sadio. In that game he became the target. Once booked, he really can’t do anything anymore. So if I said something short and sharp to Sadio, it could have a small effect. He never got involved with anything in the second half in Doha. Whether that had to do with me or that someone else spoke to him during the rest, I am not sure. I do what is best for my team. It’s best for me and the team to have Sadio left.
“Unfortunately, the camera and the audio picked it up. I don’t want to come across as that player, but when it comes to protecting a teammate, I like to think my teammates protect me as much as I try to protect them. We are a family and if one of them becomes a target, we will support them all. That happens in every good team. Like the old Man United team. Like with Roy Keane. They have never shied back to protect each other. Arsenal with Vieira. That was the same thing. Fernandinho is doing it in Man City.
“For me as a team we protect each other. We are like a family. We are like brothers. If one of them becomes a target or is bullied, it is up to us to protect him. That is what I am trying to do.
“When people point out to me that I do that, it annoys me a bit. Maybe more than that annoys Liverpool fans. For me, maybe in ten years that I’m no longer here and I’m retired, I don’t want people to look back on me like that. I want people to look back and say “he played in a good team and he played a big role in that”. I hope they say that, instead of saying a few words to Rafinha or laughing at Tom Davies. “
The defender described his club teammates as a family of brothers protecting each other
The second moment: the first half of the Merseyside derby on December 4, in which Liverpool wins 5-2. Davies, Everton’s young midfielder, receives the ball on the edge of the Everton area and starts turning it away when Robertson shoots it in and the two fall to the ground. Robertson lands heavily on Davies and his forearm crunches the Everton player on the back of the head.
“I think Andy Robertson knew exactly what he was doing there,” says the TV commentator. Again, fans of Liverpool love it. This is a team with a head start, they think.
This is a player with a head start. This is a player who is not going backwards. This is a player who will take the fight to his local rivals. Davies gets up and pushes Robertson while he is lying on the floor. Robertson stands up, turns around, stares at Davies and laughs. The moment is launching a million repetitions.
“It looked worse on the video,” says Robertson. “It was a complete accident. I fell over. It would be interesting to see how people would have reacted if I had started pushing him and wanted to start a big fight. A lot has been made of me when I tried to laugh at it. I did not know what irritated him at the time, but afterwards I saw the video and I thought: “Yes, if I were I would be annoyed.” The way some people used to say that I was an annoying player annoys me. I just don’t think it reflects me, just like other things. The people who know me know that I am honest.
“As a defender you sometimes have to walk along the line. Sometimes you have to make cynical mistakes. You must make a booking. If you’ve been looking at my Premier League disciplinary record since I’m in Liverpool, I only have one booking this season, maybe two. As a defender, if we contradict ourselves, that’s pretty good. “
The Scotland captain collided with Tom Davies of Everton during the Merseyside derby
The third moment: the first minute of the Miracle of Anfield last May when Liverpool started the second leg of their semi-final Champions League against Barcelona with 3-0. Lionel Messi sprints forward and Fabinho and Robertson stop his run on the edge of the box. Messi thinks it should be a free kick and indicates so much.
The game continues. Messi is sitting on the grass. Robertson runs in the direction of the game and then stops. He puts both hands on the back of Messi ‘s head and shoves him half, half ruffles his hair and then runs on. Messi looks up, surprise etched all over his face.
Liverpool fans also like this. They love him because of the declaration of intent. They love him because of the boldness of it. They like the iconoclasm of it. And amid the joy of one of the greatest occasions where club football has been witnessed in this country, amid wild celebrations of Liverpool’s 4-0 win that night, it is remembered as one of the most important moments of the game, a symbol of what would come. “When I look back on things, I actually don’t regret anything, because I feel that everything is experience that makes you who you are,” says Robertson. “But I do look back on that moment with Messi as a regret. I don’t like to see it. When I saw it later, I was stripped.
The full-back admitted that defenders must be prepared to occasionally make cynical mistakes
“We all had the attitude that nothing prevented us from reaching that final and we created that atmosphere around the stadium and I and Fabinho followed him and there was a jumble of legs and we were on the floor. To do that to the best player who has ever played …
“I have nothing but respect for him and Barcelona, but we went into that game with the attitude that we were 3-0 down, we needed a miracle, we needed something special and if that little thing the best player in the world stopped playing to its highest potential …
“But I do regret it. I am not that person. That is not my personality. But many things happened that night that you don’t really remember. There was no thought process behind it. We were completely ready for the game. The fans roared and you get caught up in it. You are human. We were 3-0 behind in the semi-final of the Champions League, which we wanted to restore in the previous season. It was the loudest dressing room I have been to before the game. You could see the focus and the determination in all of us and maybe I crossed the line.
Robertson said he regretted his push at Lionel Messi during the semifinals of the Champions League
“But Liverpool fans love the lead, I think. I think this whole team might be very good at representing Liverpool right now. Liverpool is a big working-class city. We are going to work hard. We are defeated in games, but what you cannot doubt is that we give 100 percent every time we go outside. “
Robertson is right about the way that this team that carries it all, that has dropped only two points throughout the season, that is still unbeaten in the league, represents the city. Players like him, Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk embody a manual connection between the players and the community. In the modern game it sometimes seems as if footballers take a distance from supporters. That is not the case with this Liverpool team.
They now need a maximum of five wins. Five more wins to win the title that Liverpool has missed so long. That starts with West Ham’s visit to Anfield on Monday evening. It is only a matter of when now. Whether it is riveted at home in Crystal Palace on March 21 or five days earlier to Everton in Goodison Park. Or even earlier.
The Scotsman believes that the current Reds team is good at representing the city of Liverpool
The fans sing that they are going to win the competition now, but not Robertson. It is not his style.
A fan came to him while he was shopping at a supermarket in Merseyside last week and begged, “You’re going to win the competition, aren’t you?” I said to him: “We are doing well so far.”
“I didn’t want to give him too much hope. Look, we are a team that loves winning games and are very good at it and we need five wins now and we think we can achieve those five wins and more.
“We know where we are in. Do we believe we are going to win? Not yet. Only when the champion sign is above our heads. “
Liverpool will not believe that they will become champions until they have the sign above their heads