Big interview | Andy Robertson on CL final, mentality monsters and attacking instinct
Andy Robertson is asking for just one more push from his Liverpool teammates in order to end an historic 2018-19 season in the best way possible.
The Reds, who amassed the third-highest points total in top-flight history this campaign, will participate in a second successive Champions League final when they take on Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid this Saturday.
Liverpoolfc.com sat down with Robertson at the squad's recent Marbella training camp as he discussed returning to the biggest game in club football, the evolving role of a full-back and the importance of Liverpool supporters.
Andy, another Champions League final. Here we go again...
Exactly that feeling I think. [It's] something to look forward to again, a huge achievement even getting there. I think you saw the other three semi-finalists never got there this season. It just shows you how hard it is to go in this competition. We've done it twice in two years, but it's all about going that step further now and we have to try to make these steps to get what we want and what we think we deserve.
It doesn't happen very often that a team reaches consecutive Champions League finals. In fact, it's only the third time in the club's history that this has happened...
That just shows you how hard it is. The Champions League is exactly what it says. I know it's not quite everybody's champions, but it's all the big teams in Europe fighting for one trophy. You come up against so many good teams that to get there twice in two years is not easy. That's why not many people can do it. Luckily with the way we've played this season and the way we've played against the big teams when we've had to, then we're here again. We've had a wee bit of luck on our side as well but we're in the final and we look forward to it and now it's a one-off match against one of our rivals. It's something that we can look forward to.
It's an achievement but now the aim is to take that next step. If we did do it, it would cap a pretty remarkable season, wouldn't it? 97 points in the league, another Champions League final. When you reported back for pre-season last summer, did you think this kind of season was possible?
I believed it was possible, but it was all about how we used the disappointment of getting beat in the final. Luckily we used it to our advantage. We used that as motivation. We used it as motivation in pre-season - more so to get all the fitness in our legs, so we're ready and the determination to get off to a good start in the season. Luckily we did that. I think teams can go one or two ways if they have that disappointment - it can easily set them back and they can struggle. Luckily we've not done that whatever happens in the final. But obviously we hope that we don't have that feeling anymore because I still remember how I felt for even days after the cup final. It wasn't a nice feeling but you want to be on the winning side - of course you do. We'll be doing everything to not have that feeling again this year.
You've been called 'mentality monsters' by the boss. This team tends to bounce back in a really positive way, doesn't it?
This team has been tested all season and people have questioned whether we can keep up with City, keep going with our title charge and keep going in the Champions League - 'Should we concentrate on one of them?' Of course we just fell short in the Premier League but we did keep up with Man City. We took them right until the last day and they won it by a point. I think I said after the game, credit goes to them but we did push them and we had a hell of a season and, of course, disappointment. But [it's] one we can look back on with pride when the time comes.
Now we need to try to go and get a trophy because we feel that [with] everything we've put in this season then it would be amazing to cap it off like that. The way the fans have conducted themselves this season as well, they deserve a trophy after the disappointment of last season and obviously the last day of this season. We hope that we can do that for them and we hope we can do it for the club. That's got to be our motivation.
In order to get to Madrid, did we see the very best of this Liverpool team in the second leg against Barcelona?
I think you did see the best of us. I think we can be more controlled, but in that situation where you're 3-0 down, we had to be erratic. Unfortunately we had to take a couple of risks and we had to push them higher up and press them all over - which we do anyway but I think sometimes there's been more structure to what we've done. Luckily it worked against Barca and they were passing the ball out of play, which is unlike them, and we were winning the ball back in dangerous areas. I think you did see a perfect performance by us there, but in different circumstances. We need to play different against Tottenham because we know the threats they've got and, in an attacking threat, we'll need to try to get at them. That's the only way we're going to win this game.
It's a few weeks on from that night. Have you managed to digest just how iconic that night is going to become in the club's history?
Probably not. I think when we're involved in it, you don't think about those things. I think that's more for the people around [and] about us. It was just another game for us and a game that we've won and then we're through to the final. The only thing we hope is that it's iconic because it's the game that got us into the final that we won. That's what we hope and the only way to do that is by putting in a similar performance and getting our hands on the trophy. But like I said, we know how hard that's going to be against another fantastic team.
Tottenham are a fantastic team. It's important that everybody recognises what a threat they are...
I don't think anyone doubts that. The fans that are going over will have watched Tottenham for the last couple of years under [Mauricio] Pochettino and we all know Tottenham always play well against us. They always seem to give us a good game and last season they got the upper hand on us. This season we turned that around a wee bit. But I think the game at Anfield proves that we were quite lucky, they had a few big chances - but we were going for the title, so we had to win it and luckily we got a bit of luck right at the end.
But Tottenham are a fantastic team with an unbelievable manager and they have quality the whole way through their squad. They finished fourth in the end, so they're not far behind us. Every game we've played has been competitive and we expect that - and I'm sure so will they. Hopefully it'll be a good game, but one that we come out on top.
Can we take anything from the two games we've played against them this season?
I think both teams will probably use them for analysis because it's the best thing you can do when you're playing against the team. You can maybe see things and they'll do the exact same. But I don't think we can take anything from the two Premier League games going into a final. A final is a one-off game and you have to deal with the emotions and how big the game is and things like that. You also need to try to perform to your best. We know if we don't perform to our best then we've got no chance - and so will they. But if both of us perform to their best then let's see who comes out on top. It's going to be a hard game but I don't think we can concentrate too much on any Premier League game against them because it's a completely different scenario. We'll obviously look at the clips and see what we can take from that.
On a personal level, how do you reflect on the season you've had?
Up to this point, I've been happy with how the season's gone. Probably at the start of the season [there was] a bit more pressure on me this time. I came in December time last season and just kind of managed to hit the ground running and didn't really think about it. But people expected it of me this season and it's up to them to decide. But I hope that I've not let them down and I've produced similar performances, which I think I have. Numbers - like clean sheets and assists - are a lot higher probably than last season and they're the key numbers for me. Obviously next season when it comes to looking at that, I'll be hoping to add more clean sheets and more assists because that means it's part of a successful team. But we can worry about that another time and I just hope that I've got one more clean sheet and hopefully a couple more assists in me for the final of course. Let's see.
Has the role of a full-back changed in this Liverpool team? Because yourself and Trent are like extra attackers on the wings...
If you look at the last 10 years, I think it's evolved probably every single season. If you told a full-back 10 years ago that they were going to be that involved in attacking play they wouldn't have quite believed it. I remember when I used to go watch football and it was very much a back four that stayed back and you dealt with your winger. As long as you defend them out of the game then you'd done your job, which was fine. But now I think there's a lot more onus on full-backs going forward, coming from deep and taking over your winger.
It has changed a lot and obviously the gaffer gives me and Trent the licence to go at the right times - and we need to be the judge of that. I think this season we've been a lot better at judging that than probably last season. I think last season we both probably went a wee bit too much. Now we're getting a wee bit better at judging the game and looking at the situation that we're in and maybe being a wee bit more clever. I think we've dealt with that well and that will only come, especially for Trent, with age - that'll help him massively and he'll just keep getting better year on year. I think this season has been a lot better than what we did last season.
Your relationship with the supporters is a good one - you've got your own song, you've got your own flag. What does that mean to you?
It means the world. Seeing the flag on the last game of the season, it's special. You don't see many players that are getting up in the Kop and things. It was great to see. It was good to see my brother fly the flag... I'm joking! It was a great moment to see that and it just shows they appreciate me on the park. As a squad we don't want to let the fans down and we don't want to let the club down. We believe we've done that this season, but we've not produced a trophy. That's the only way you can really repay the fans. We've got one more crack at it and hopefully we can deliver that for them.
Are you given further motivation by wanting to reward the supporters for the backing they've given everybody not only in the last year, but certainly in your time at the club?
The fans since I've got here have been different class and I'm sure they've been like that for years and years because they're well renowned to be the best. We need to try to repay them. We know how happy that will make them if we can take that final step and go and lift the trophy - it's what they deserve. All the fans of course, but the fans that followed us this season and sold out every away ground, sold out Anfield every single weekend - to do that isn't easy, especially with what all goes on in the world just now. Fair play to every single one of them. Hopefully we can repay them with one big day out at the end of the season that we can all celebrate together. Like I said, we're no fools and we know it's not a given and we know the hard work that needs to get put in. As long as we can do that then we believe that everyone will be celebrating.