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David Meyler: Robertson’s remarkable rise to the top and my England v Scotland preview

This week, the former Ireland midfielder talks about a former club mate and looks ahead to two key Euro 2020 group matches.

Scotland captain Andy Robertson.
Scotland captain Andy Robertson.
Image: Stu Forster

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler looks at the rise of Scotland captain Andy Robertson before previewing their Euro 2020 showdown with England and giving his predictions ahead of meeting between defending champions Portugal and Germany. 

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England v Scotland, 8pm Friday

I watched Andy Robertson being interviewed by Eilidh Barbour on the BBC ahead of Scotland’s opening Euro 2020 group game against the Czech Republic and it got me thinking about just how far my old team-mate has come.

Released by Celtic’s youth academy as a boy over concerns about his size, Robbo wasn’t going to let that setback define him. He climbed the ranks at Queens Park and began plying his trade in the Scottish Third Division, before earning a move to Scotland’s top flight with Dundee United.

Hull City manager Steve Bruce took a shine to the young defender and, after one season, he joined us in 2014 for £2.85million.

It took Andy a few months to get settled in with the lads and learn how we worked. I’m sure it was a big change coming from Dundee United but he didn’t look back.

In the 2015/16 season — when we were promoted to the Premier League — he played 42 of the 46 league matches as well as the three play-off games. 

That was the first time I thought ‘this boy has massive potential’. Now I’m not going to lie and say I thought he would reach the levels that he has in recent years. I knew Andy had more in him, but he has gone on to hit astounding heights at Liverpool — becoming a Champions League, Premier League and Club World Cup winner.

I had a pint with Andy after Liverpool’s European Cup win in 2019 and he is still the same old Robbo.

For me, he’s the best left-back in the world right now. There is likely to be mentions for veterans like Jordi Alba and Marcelo and the other one I’d pick out is Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich.

You might disagree depending on who you support — Man United fans could talk of Luke Shaw’s current form, Chelsea supporters may point to Ben Chilwell and Arsenal really rate Kieran Tierney — but I think Andy is more of an all-rounder.

Liverpool had a disappointing year by their standards but his performances didn’t really drop. Andy was one of the more reliable players while others were going through hard times.

If that is not a fairytale story, I don’t know what is. I’m aware that he doesn’t really like that phrase as it sends the wrong message to aspiring footballers trying to make their way in the game.

Robbo is the perfect example for any young boy or girl who is told at 14 or 15 that they’re not big enough, quick enough or good enough. He has proven that, with hard work and endeavour, you can reach the very top.

I remember Andy telling us stories that he used to work at Hampden Park, serving dinner and collecting plates and cutlery. On Monday, he captained his national team in the European Championship at that very ground.

23 years have passed since the Scots were last at a major tournament so there were bound to be nerves. It was just one of those days that no matter what they threw at the Czechs, they couldn’t score.

I’ve seen the argument made that Che Adams should have started up front ahead of Lyndon Dykes and that maybe he would have scored one of their chances. That is all ifs, buts and maybes now and Steve Clarke has been loyal to the lads who qualified them for the tournament. 

Southampton forward Adams — a former England U20 international — only committed his allegiance to Scotland and joined up with the squad three months ago, but he will get his opportunity. 

Some people have been very critical of David Marshall’s positioning for Patrik Schick’s second goal but most goalkeepers play that sweeper-keeper role nowadays and it is part and parcel of football.

When you break it down, Schick has scored with an incredible effort. The Bayer Leverkusen striker had some audacity to shoot from just inside the Scottish half, particularly when you see how far out the ball starts before curling in.

Scotland were very unfortunate as they were knocking on the door and there were some good performances.

I would like to see improvements from the forward players and a couple of the midfielders. John McGinn and Scott McTominay — two players who had good seasons at club level — have more in them than they showed.

They also have the highly-rated Billy Gilmour in their ranks. The 20-year-old Chelsea man is lacking in international experience but if you’re good enough you’re old enough.

England boss Gareth Southgate brought on Jude Bellingham against Croatia and, at 17 years and 349 days old, he is the youngest player to ever line out at a Euros.

Premier League clubs like Manchester United were sniffing around him but he left Birmingham City to join Borussia Dortmund last summer.

They are renowned for giving youngsters a chance and he has enjoyed a terrific first season — particularly in the Champions League.

britain-england-croatia-euro-2020-soccer Jude Bellingham became the youngest player to ever feature at the European Championship. Source: Laurence Griffiths

We don’t see Gilmour training on a daily basis, but if Steve Clarke is looking for a midfielder to be a bit more controlled and get on the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come in.

Clarke could make a few changes and they will get a massive boost if Tierney is fit to start after missing the first match.

The Scots had good possession against the Czechs and it was fairly balanced. Against England, they won’t have as much of the ball and will need to keep hold of it when they do.

I thought England put in a very professional display in the win over Croatia. Their best period was in the opening 20 or 30 minutes as they started very well and knocked the ball about. Phil Foden also rattled his shot off the post but I thought the game then passed him by and I was surprised he wasn’t substituted earlier.

Croatia were always going to grow into the match but they didn’t create a lot and England’s centre-half pairing of Tyrone Mings and John Stones were very solid.

It was a big call to play the right-sided Kieran Trippier at left full-back, especially after the seasons that Shaw and Chilwell had at Man United and Chelsea respectively.

Southgate clearly rates Trippier very highly and he has just won La Liga with Atletico Madrid.

There are question marks over the fitness of Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire and those two would’ve certainly been starters in the first game, but I’m fascinated to see if Southgate picked that team to play Croatia or if he feels that side is his strongest XI.

Form goes out the window in matches like this one and it has that local derby feel to it. It’s similar when Ireland play England or Scotland.

England need to find a way to play football and not get drawn into a battle because their players are far superior to the Scotland’s.

The Scots must avoid defeat and hope they can get something out of it. I still expect England to win the game as they should have too much for their neighbours at Wembley. Let’s go with 3-1

Portugal v Germany, 5pm Saturday

Germany lost out 1-0 to pre-tournament favourites France on Tuesday, and I thought they lacked a focal point in attack. Joachim Loew must be wishing Miroslav Klose could come out of retirement and bag them a goal!

They created chances and did everything but score. Serge Gnabry occupied the striker’s role, while Timo Werner and Kevin Volland were also introduced before the end but it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Contrastingly, Portugal have one of the greatest of all time in Cristiano Ronaldo, who might not seem like he is having a great game and then he goes and scores twice.

hungary-v-portugal-uefa-euro-2020-group-d-puskas-arena Cristiano Ronaldo is still going strong at 36. Source: DPA/PA Images

Ronaldo now has 106 international goals, which is just three off the all-time record set by Ali Daei of Iran, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he broke that during this tournament.

At 36, people are starting to write him off but he remains so driven to be successful and has kept himself in great physical condition.

It has been said that Ronaldo didn’t have a brilliant season at Juventus but he still managed to score 36 goals in all competitions.

I’m going to say 2-1 to Portugal on Saturday.

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €50 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code EUR50. For full details and all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org       

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