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'We had just been in close contact with the Atlético players and probably 60 others'

Andy Robertson recalls the surreal backdrop for Liverpool’s clash with Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool's Andrew Robertson (second right) pictured competing against Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool's Andrew Robertson (second right) pictured competing against Atletico Madrid.
Image: Martin Rickett

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from Now You’re Gonna Believe Us: Our Year, My Story by Andy Robertson.

DRAINED, DEFEATED and disappointed, the last thing I wanted was to be picked for a drugs test. Atlético Madrid had just won at Anfield and our reign as European champions was over.

All I wanted to do was get home to start dealing with our loss. No such luck. Doc Andy Massey tapped me on the shoulder and told me I’d been randomly selected along with Adrian.

Seeing as I’d missed an absolute sitter and Adrian had made a costly error, I didn’t see much point in checking if either of us had taken anything that would enhance our performance.

It is part of the job, though, and rightly so. We followed the Doc out of the dressing room, expecting to be put in another room with the two Atlético players who had also been chosen but a Uefa official told us this wouldn’t be possible. We had to go into separate rooms as a precaution against infection. I lost my head.

Post-match adrenaline wasn’t helping and neither was the result but even without those twin impostors I still would’ve been angry and confused. We had just been in close contact with the Atlético players and probably 60 others involved in the game in various roles. We had tackled one another, we had sweated, we had shaken hands and we had panted our way through one hundred and 20 gruelling minutes.

Yet here we were being told that we could not share a room with two of their players. I’m no scientist but I struggled with the logic of that. The doctor was from Switzerland and there were other medical staff from other parts of Europe. Had they been tested? How could I be sure that they didn’t have something that they could pass on to me? The Swiss doctor probably had similar concerns himself but first he had to deal with mine. “How can you possibly split us up now?” I asked.

“We’ve shaken hands. We’ve been in close contact all game. We’ve had 54,000 people watching us from the stands. And now you’re saying we can’t sit together. Really?” Everyone has their own moment when coronavirus invaded their consciousness. This was mine.

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Even with the benefit of hindsight, I still can’t get my head around everything that happened that night. When I was finally able to go home, someone told me about a story in The Times which said social distancing was set to be introduced. The story had obviously come from the government, the same government which had decided that mass gatherings such as football matches were safe to go ahead because the risks of the disease being transmitted were relatively low.

So you had medical professionals saying it wasn’t safe for me to share a room with an opponent on the same night that tens of thousands had been allowed to congregate in close proximity. Forgive me for being confused. Excuse me for being concerned.

Like most people who had been at Anfield, I left the ground wondering what the immediate future held but not for a minute did I think it would be another three months before we were able to play there again. The reality of coronavirus was starting to dawn but its tragic and long-term impact was still to reveal itself. It was the final hour of my 26th birthday and things hadn’t gone to plan but little did I know how much my life and everyone else’s was about to change.

Again, I’m no expert, but looking back, it felt like Britain was looking at the damage that coronavirus was doing in other parts of the world without recognising that it would do the same here. I know we are an island but that doesn’t make us immune to disease, especially in an age when international travel means people are coming and going every minute of every day.

I’m just an ordinary person like everyone else and I like to believe that those in power know what they’re doing whether or not I agree with them politically, but I defy anyone to cast their mind back to the first days of March 2020 and not have concerns about some of the decisions that were made by those in authority.

It’s widely accepted now that the information we were getting at the time wasn’t always ideal and that in certain instances it created a bit of naïvety and possibly a false sense of security too. Again, it is surreal when I think about it. We were all going about our normal everyday lives, in our case training, playing matches and looking forward to the possibility of winning the Premier League, but in the back of everyone’s minds was a growing fear about an invisible killer.

Now You’re Gonna Believe Us: Our Year, My Story by Andy Robertson is published by Reach Sport. More info here.

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