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There’s a running joke that tends to pop up on your favourite Scottish football forum or Twitter account whenever Scotland are about to play and the country gets excited all over again about watching Andy Robertson playing in the dark blue shirt. It can start a number of different ways, but the gist of it is responding to anything about the young lad from Glasgow with “and to think he was playing for Queen’s Park five years ago.”
As ever, the humour comes from the constant and now tedious manner in which the media (and your old da) can’t help but recite Robertson’s origins story as a modern day miracle. In the world of global stars with Instagram followings larger than most European countries, Scotland has wasted little time going ga-ga for its own World class talent. And then it made fun of itself because that’s what we do.
Indeed, we all know how good the Liverpool full-back truly is but this week we saw his standing in Alex McLeish’s Scotland squad reach a new level when it was announced that the 24-year-old would be Scotland’s next captain. And in so many ways the appointment made perfect sense.
— Andrew Robertson (@andrewrobertso5) September 3, 2018
Although a number of players in McLeish’s current squad were regulars during Gordon Strachan’s tenure as Scotland boss, there’s no doubt that the former Rangers manager has tried to take a fresh approach to the tired and tedious manner in which Strachan often relied on older heads when younger, exciting options were available.
While few would have begrudged McLeish turning to more experienced players like Christophe Berra, Craig Gordon or even Leigh Griffiths, the new coach would have surely wanted to make a clear message: out with the old and in with the new.
Robertson is undoubtedly the most high profile Scottish player, but at 24 he now draws a line directly through McLeish’s squad. You’re either older than the gold standard and must prove you’re worth keeping around or you’re younger and now have a clear target to reach. And that hasn’t been the case in the Scotland national team since Darren Fletcher was handed the honour on a full-time basis as a 25-year-old in 2009.
And what a gold standard to set. While Scottish football has a long, turbulent history of hyping young players only to watch them falter, there’s a genuine sense that the generation coming through now is unquestionably something special.
In this current squad alone, McLeish can call upon the exquisite talents of Kieran Tierney at left back or in central defence, Hearts’ own calm and collected defender, John Souttar, or Aston Villa’s new midfield sensation John McGinn. If not for injuries we’d also have Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna and the towering, exciting presence of Oli McBurnie to get just as excited about.
What Robertson’s latest appointment does is say to each and every one of those players that age is just a number and that any perceived hierarchy based on the number of caps or seasons played at certain levels means very little to the new manager. Under McLeish, young players will not only get a shot but will be front and centre of his attempts to qualify for Euro 2020 if they can prove they’re good enough.
With at least another four international tournaments to qualify for before Robertson one day begins to consider hanging up the boots, Scotland now has a captain playing at the very highest level with an unquenchable thirst to drag his country along on the ride. Let’s hope this young, exciting generation can keep up with their new leader.