Scotland captain's former teacher hails his 'inspirational' journey

Robertson suffered a setback as a teenager before making his way to the top of the game.

A former high school teacher of Andy Robertson has hailed the Scotland captain’s journey from being released as a teenager from Celtic to becoming one of the best left-backs in the world.

St Ninian’s headteacher Gerry O’Neil was the defender’s year head when he attended the school and says his achievements are still an inspiration to pupils at the school and across the country.

The Liverpool star will lead the national team out for their second Euro 2024 group game against Switzerland on Wednesday night as they aim to be the first Scottish side to reach the knockout stages of a major international tournament.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Robertson who, despite being an impressive player who captained a successful St Ninian’s side, was released by boyhood heroes Celtic at the age of 14.

That is the type of setback that has brought an end to many promising career, but Robertson knuckled down and earning a contract at Queen’s Park before rising through the ranks to play for Dundee United and getting a transfer down south to Hull City.

After impressing at Hull he got his big move to Premier League giants Liverpool where he established himself as one of the world’s best left-backs and helped the Anfield side to win the league and Champions League.

In 2021 he became the first Scotland captain in a generation to lead the team out at a major tournament and has now followed that up by skippering them to a second Euros.

Speaking ahead of the crunch game against Switzerland, Mr O’Neil spoke of his pride at his former pupil’s achievements and how much his story can be passed on to inspire other teenagers who have faced a setback.

He said: “I knew Andy as a pupil, I was his year head from when he was in S3 so I worked with him fairly closely, I didn’t teach him but I worked closely with him for about four years.

“He was a good pupil, he worked hard, was a great footballer and he was part of a really good football team with lots of good players in the team.

“He was the captain of the team, he led them well and he was good to have around and a popular boy as well.

“It’s a big school, there were 300 pupils in his year group, he was well known but stand out across the year group more than anyone else in particular but on the football field he stood out as a quality player.

“He was always a good player, and even before I knew him he was playing for Celtic and he was released around the age of 14, so I think he had a bit of a challenge.

“Because many players at that stage when they are released by one of the bigger clubs they give up so he certainly has a great story there because he never gave up, he signed with Queen’s Park and when he left St Ninian’s after sixth year he got a contract with them.

“He worked hard there before getting a move to Dundee United, then Hull and ultimately Liverpool.

“I always remember him signing for Liverpool and we all thought he was going to be a bit of a squad player, so to then watch that journey from squad player to a starting left-back and ever-present in the team that won the league and indeed winning the Champions League to go on to be quoted as one of the best left-backs in the world.

“So that journey from being released at 14 to being one of the best left-backs in the world was a fantastic journey.

“He always showed a great deal of resilience, which I think the team are going to have to show over the next couple of games, and it’s a great example to pupils in this school and across the country, because that determination to succeed, in terms of his football career, proves there is no wrong path when you are willing to work at it.

“I’ve heard pupils that have been released from clubs saying ‘well it happened to Andy Robertson, so it’s a great message and it doesn’t need to be about football, it can be about not getting that apprenticeship, not getting into that university course, in any aspect of life that is an example we can show to the pupils and use that as an inspiration.”

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