In Andrew Robertson’s mind, May 27 looked very different. This day, he envisaged, was going to be a celebration of a remarkable year, a chance to party after his dreams had come true. It was going to be a time to spend with his family, as the new owner of a Champions League winners’ medal.
On May 27, though, Liverpool’s left back found himself shuffling around the aisles of his local DIY store, in the company of his father, Brian, shopping for a barbecue. There was no talking, no appetite for celebration, just a hollow sense of what might had been.
Liverpool’s shattered squad arrived back at their Melwood base at 6am that morning. Before going their separate ways, Jurgen Klopp gathered the players in the first team changing room and told them to use the experience to become better. He didn’t want anybody dwelling on the upset.
Andrew Robertson (right) was left dejected by Liverpool’s defeat by Real Madrid on May 26
A hug from Jurgen Klopp did little to help him get over Liverpool’s Champions League final loss
That, though, was easier said than done. Robertson, who had shoved his runners-up medal in his washbag straight after the game, was distraught. When he got back home, all he could think about were the key moments in the 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid.
‘I had over 20 people at the final and they were all flying in at different times; when they got back they were all trying to catch some sleep,’ says Robertson. ‘But I couldn’t. I sat up and spent some time with my little one (Rocco) because he can’t speak, which I was quite happy about!
‘I have since watched the game back on my own. It was tough. I watched the first half an hour and I kept thinking: “We’ve got them here!” but, obviously, things started going wrong after that. I honestly think the second goal took the wind out of our sails.
‘You put so much into the whole day, so much adrenaline. Then you have a massive come down afterwards. That hit me. I had to get through it. So I went out with my dad and bought a barbecue because everyone was coming round.
‘There I am, the day after the Champions League final, in Homebase in Formby buying a barbecue! It just got me out the house to be honest! Dad is quite good in those kind of situations. He’ll talk about everything bar football. When we got back, we built and then did the cooking!
‘By about three o’clock, when everyone had arrived, I was just happy to have my family round me. I could see how proud they were of me and it was good to be surrounded by them. It was a good comfort.’
It took time but, eventually, the frustration began to ease. We are talking at Liverpool’s team hotel and Robertson explains how a summer spent on the golf course in Portugal allowed him to take stock and appreciate everything that had happened over the past 12 months.
Robertson, after all, arrived at Anfield last July as – to put it bluntly – ‘a left-back from Hull’. There was no hype around the deal and he simply slipped in through the side door; it wasn’t until December that he actually managed to get a run in the side.
But left back Robertson is back in training and looking forward to a new season with the Reds
Liverpool trained in Michigan on Friday on the eve of a pre-season match against Man United
When his moment arrived, though, he took it in such impressive fashion that his lung-busing displays have made him one of The Kop’s favourites. By the end of the campaign, he was being spoken about as arguably the best in his position in the division. The transformation was remarkable.
‘The first couple of months I wasn’t really anywhere to be seen,’ the Scotland international agrees. ‘There was no big deal about it and that was probably what I wanted at the time. Now I feel more established in the squad. It’s small things really.
‘I’ve never been to America before, for example, so to see the fans and hear them shouting your name… You’d maybe think they’d be here just to see Liverpool, but they know all the players, they’re clued up. It’s good to be noticed, because it means you’re playing and doing something right.
‘As soon as you put in one good performance for a club like this there’s pressure; the next week fans expect it again. Last season, nobody put pressure on me really. I think for some fans, anything I did was a bonus! This season there is more expectation but I have to use that to my advantage.’
Expectation does not just stalk Robertson. It is swarming all over Liverpool, following an ambitious recruitment drive that has seen them spend more than £250million this summer; the squad will be complete on Monday when Alisson Becker, the £65million goalkeeper, finally joins up.
Liverpool have invested heavily in their squad this summer, paying £65m for keeper Alisson
Robertson knows there will be a higher level of expectation’ on himself and the team this term
So what is achievable? Robertson sees no merit in discussing whether Liverpool will be title challengers before the first ball of the new season is kicked but he is happy to point out just how competitive things are in training – and what the intensity might mean for performances.
‘This year, we’ve got a stronger squad and the competition is there,’ says Robertson. ‘If there’s competition in training then the training is intense, and then you have the pressure of a weekend that if you don’t put in good performances then your place is maybe up for grabs.
‘Manchester City blew everyone away last season, really. The first part of the season was crucial, and they were too far away from us from quite early on really. But hopefully the gaffer’s identified players who he thinks can come in and make a difference. There’s no doubting the quality.’
They might be good players but will they handle the scrutiny and expectation? If they need an example of how to get established at Anfield, they should look no further than Robertson. The last campaign has gone. The quest to reach the top has started again.
‘I like pressure,’ says Robertson. ‘I put in on myself and I think I get the best out of myself by doing that. I just can’t wait for the season to start.’
Robertson had a shock when he logged on to Twitter on the morning of July 4. Unbeknown to him, Curtis Davies, his former team-mate, had posted a picture of Robertson and Harry Maguire on the day they signed for Hull in 2014. There was a playful barb but also a message that these two players were proof that hard work can bring success.
‘That wasn’t my best attempt at a haircut was it?!’ says Robertson, laughing. ‘I remember actually that I’d booked in for a haircut on the Sunday and I was meant to sign on the Monday. Then I got phoned late Thursday night to say ‘Come down, you’re signing Friday’.
‘I was like ‘No! I can’t until I get my hair cut!’ It was too late. I didn’t trust any Hull barbers to do it before I signed, so it’s not the best picture! Big Harry looks all right but I don’t! What can you say about him? Fantastic tournament. But, to be fair I don’t think it came as a big surprise to us.’