New Dundee United coach Scott Robertson reflects on decision to retire, Tannadice challenge & balancing talent with temperament

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

AFTER 17 summers of beep tests, screaming limbs and BMI checks, Scott Robertson will finally be spared the brutal punishment of pre-season training.

And he will miss every torturous moment of it.

Robertson, 33, admits the decision to call time on his playing career was one of the toughest he has ever made.

Robertson in his playing days with United (Pic: Alasdair Middleton)

He was already putting in the hard miles on the treadmill ahead of another tilt at the League 1 title with Raith Rovers when the phone-call came from Dundee United.

The former Scotland internationalist firmly believes he had another couple of campaigns left in his legs but, as an ambitious aspiring coach, the opportunity to take charge of United under-18 side was too tempting.

“I’m still coming to terms with not being a player, really,” he reflected. “I’ve still been doing all my runs and preparation for pre-season.

“All players will tell you that it’s not nice to get done in until you can’t breathe anymore! But you know why you are doing it and, after that work, you are always as fit as you could possibly be. I’ll miss it.

“It was a really tough decision to stop playing because I think I could have gone on for at least another year, possibly more. However, that would have been a selfish decision – not one that, long-term, was the best for me, my family and my future career. It’s the right decision.

“This is a massive opportunity to progress as a coach and, with the restructuring happening at United, such an exciting thing to be involved in at the start. But I think it will only be when the campaign starts that it will really kick in that I’m retired and a coach now.”

Indeed, if the call had come from any other club, he may have resisted; may have played on at Stark’s Park. However, this was United, the club for whom he made 126 appearances and attained legendary status by helping them win the 2010 Scottish Cup.

“It’s a special club for me,” he continued. “When I went into Tannadice to have a chat about this role, my name is still up there on the walls on the honours list. It’s a part of the club’s history. Now it’s my job to get some other names up there.

Johnny Russell: a touchstone for Robertson

“I was at this club at a time where there was Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Dow, Johnny Russell and they weren’t just making up the numbers – they were pushing, developing and knocking senior players out of the team.

“I remember being that age, getting a taste of senior football and being driven for more, and you need that a conveyor belt of talent who are hungry and can challenge for a first-team place, and are better than options you could bring in from elsewhere.

“Young players need knowledge, information, guidance, and support. These are things I believe I can provide.”

One of the most self-deprecating professionals you could meet, Robertson insists he has shared dressing rooms with players who possess ‘100 times more talent than me’.

Yet, as he hangs up his boots, he can reflect on two full international caps – crossing swords with Javier Zanetti, Carlos Tevez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his outings against Argentina and Sweden – a Scottish Cup triumph and has played in the Europa League.

That feeling of having made the most of his ability will be the cornerstone of his coaching philosophy.

“To make your debut is one thing. To make a career is something else,” he says. “You need to combine talent with the right temperament. That is when a player really fulfills his potential.

“I wish I was more talented, but I still managed to enjoy a fantastic career. Although I would have liked to have played more for Scotland, had fewer injuries and things like that, I’m sure I’ll look back on my career with a lot of pride in a few years.

Vision

“I can look at myself in the mirror and say ‘I played at the highest level I possibly could have’ because I listened to my coaches, worked every day and had the right attitude.
“That is what I want to imprint on these youngsters.”

Robertson will work alongside another ex-United favourite, Craig Easton, with the youth and reserve ranks – the pair renewing a coaching partnership crafted at Raith. The passion to revitalise the Terrors, from the bottom up, is evident.

He added: “From the first moment I met [Dundee United chairman] Mike Martin, I liked him and I liked his vision for the club. The short-term plan is to get back to the Premiership, but there is a long-term strategy to be stable and produce our own talent – the task I’ve been charged with.”

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