The Big Rotherham United Interview: Clark Robertson. And his dad

By Paul Davis | 07/03/2019

The Big Rotherham United Interview: Clark Robertson. And his dad
Clark Robertson with dad Michael and brother Ryan

HE was there in the garden when his son was little, he was there when boy became man and lost 9-0 to Celtic, he was there when Clark Robertson became good enough for the Championship and made his mark with Rotherham United.
 
Robbo's dad is always there.

Michael Robertson lives in Aberdeen, around 400 miles and a seven-hour car journey from AESSEAL New York Stadium.

No matter.
 
"If we're at home on a Saturday, he'll drive down to Carlisle on Friday night, stay in a hotel and then do the rest of the journey on Saturday," Robertson junior reveals. "He just loves it.

"Sometimes he stays over at my place and goes back on Sunday morning, sometimes he drives home after the match. If he's feeling tired he stops at Carlisle, stays in a hotel again and then finishes the journey on Sunday morning."

Robertson senior is already a Millers fan. "He's bought himself a red and white scarf," Clark grins. "From the Club Shop. No discount!"

Michael's youngest son has been with the Millers since the summer, lured from Blackpool to South Yorkshire by the prospect of second-tier football, the chance to further his claims for a Scotland call-up and the persuasive powers of manager Paul Warne.

"I played for Blackpool at New York in the final match of last season. Rotherham won 1-0," Robertson recollects. "My agent phoned me a few days after that and said Rotherham were interested in me.
 
Clark with fiancee Carla and son Cole at New York

"I came down towards the end of May, two days before they were involved in the League One Play-off Final, and met the gaffer at the training ground.

"There was me, my dad and my agent. Richie (assistant boss Barker) was in on the meeting as well. We had a chat and I got a good feel for the place. I had a few other offers to consider but I felt that this was the right place. There was interest from another Championship club. The other big one was Sunderland.

"The gaffer was so enthusiastic about the place when I first walked through the door. He had so much energy. First impressions play a massive part in who you decide to sign for."

We're sat chatting just after training on a Tuesday afternoon and the club's Roundwood base is in full hum.

Warne is talking loudly on his phone, raising his voice against the songs blaring in the background as the players gather for lunch. Will Vaulks, spotting the interview, makes a terrible attempt at a Scottish accent.

Not since signing for Rotherham and setting up home in Catcliffe has Clark been back to Aberdeen, where he was brought up, but he remains close to the rest of the Robertson clan who still live there: his father, mum Sharon, older brother Ryan, a Highland League footballer, and younger sister Nicole.

"My dad used to say to me that I had a ball at my feet when I was two or three years old," he says. "He's played a big part in where I've got to today. He has his own firm buying and processing fish and then selling it on to ASDA and Morrisons.

"He used to do long shifts, from 7am to 7pm, and I'd be on the phone to him asking him: 'Are you coming out to play football when you get home?'

"He'd come in and we'd always go out into the garden and have a kickabout. 'Shooty-in' we called it. We'd take it in turns with the goalie gloves and fire shots into each other.

"I'm down here with my fiancee, Carla, and our three-year-old son, Cole. It's all I need really. I met Carla in a nightclub in Aberdeen. I was 18 and she was 22.
 

"We moved down to Blackpool together when I finished playing for Aberdeen. She's been a massive part of what I've done. She's kept my feet on the ground."

The canteen music seems louder than ever, drowning out the clink and clank of crockery and cutlery. Fun Lovin Criminals are indulging in Scooby Snacks before Kasabian take over with Fire.

Robertson, clad in club-issue black shorts and red top, has an air of 6ft 3in strength about him: solid, assured, dependable. The handshake is even stronger than Vaulks' faux pronunciation. If it wasn't for his easy, ready laugh during moments of triviality it would be easy to forget the centre-half is only 25.

"Definitely not Crooksy," he dead-pans when I ask him who his best-dressed teammate is just as giant midfielder Matt Crooks lumbers past in a shaggy display of jogging-bottomed tallness.

Forced to play out of position at left-back, the defender did well enough at Aberdeen for Blackpool to bring him south of the border in 2015 and give him a chance in his favoured role at the heart of the defence where he now performs so admirably in Warne's team.

With the passage of time, father and son can laugh about the 9-0 defeat at Celtic Park in 2010 when Robertson was just 17 and playing only the sixth match of his senior career.

"I actually had an all-right game,"  the player insists. "When I was younger, my dad used to do everything for me. He used to take me to Aberdeen three times a week - Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays - then we'd have a game on a Sunday.

"Even in those days, when I was playing away with Aberdeen youth team, he used to travel to watch me.

"He's been at my side all of the way through my career and he'll always be there, I guess."
 

Robertson is due to become a father again - a girl, this time - on July 1 and he and Carla are planning their wedding for 2020. In the meantime, another beautiful father-son relationship is blossoming.

"Cole's already into his football," the defender smiles. "When I get home from training, it's: 'Daddy, football. Daddy, football.' He goes to football training on Sundays.
"When I leave training, I go straight home and spend  time with the little man. I try to do as much with him as I can. My missus is down here with no family to help her, so I like to give her a break if possible.

"On Wednesdays I take him to the Jump Incflated place in Rotherham for a couple of hours. He loves it there and it bonds me and him. That's our time together.

"He's been to New York a few times. He saw me score against Wigan recently. I always wanted to be a youngish dad so my son or daughter could grow up watching me play football."

Eight months after his Millers move, Robertson is looking forward to finally going back to Aberdeen in the next international break. The irony isn't lost on him that the family reunion will have be to delayed a little longer if the call he has long coveted finally comes.

"My agent has been in contact with (Scotland manager) Alex McLeish," he says. "That was around November time. He said to my agent there were a few people in front of me at that minute.

"But since November I feel my form's been pretty good. I just hope he's been to a couple of my games recently and I get a chance to be in that squad and show what I can do in training.

"I hope I'm on the radar. My form has been consistent and I'm playing in one of the top five leagues in Europe.

"I am ambitious. Sunderland are a massive club to turn down but I have no regrets about joining Rotherham. I've loved every minute of it here. I knew if I wanted to enhance my international claims I had to step up to the Championship and prove myself at this level."

Our interview takes place three days after the South Yorkshire derby when Sheffield Wednesday scored an equaliser in the tenth minute of added time. Next up is a huge clash at Reading. It's the business end of the season and Rotherham are in a fight to secure their second-tier safety.

"We should have beaten Wednesday. It's still bothering me, that result," Robertson says.

There's a quiet but visible intensity about him as he talks about the need to be at "full tilt" in every contest and his burning desire to stay up.

"I feel it, I want it," sing Kasabian.

Someone was never going to miss the match at the Madejski Stadium.

"My dad is going," says Robertson, perking up again. "He's flying into Heathrow and then travelling across.
 
Dad and brother watching the Millers at the Etihad Stadium
 
"He tries everything possible to come and watch me play. He says it's a great way of seeing different places. He ticks off every away ground."

The Millers' number 15 has dreams. "I want to play at the highest level I possibly can," he says. "I don't know what that is yet. I am ambitious and it's a short career.
"I need to keep my performance level high and if something else was to come of it at a higher level it would be a great opportunity for me."”

Yet all that can wait. For now, Championship survival and recognition from his country are the focus for a player who has yet to have a poor game in a Rotherham shirt.

"My dad would be in tears if I got a call-up," Robertson reckons.

He remembers playing, during his Aberdeen days, for the Scottish under-21 national side in Eastern Europe.

For one fan it involved several flights and two solitary nights in Istanbul on the way to the game in Georgia.

But when your's son's playing? No matter.

Robbo's dad was there.
 
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Q&A

Toughest opponent: All of the Manchester City team! Gabriel Jesus maybe. He was so sharp and quick. He never gave you a second to relax.
 
Best player played with: (Winger) Ryan Fraser. We were together at Aberdeen. He's at Bournemouth now and is part of the Scotland set-up. He's class. I think he made only around 12 starts for Aberdeen but you could see that he had something different. He's top quality.
 
Best memory in football: Winning the 2017 League Two Play-off Final with Blackpool at Wembley. We bounced straight back from relegation. I had a good game from what I can recall. It's kind of a blur. I remember the celebrations more. The day I signed for Blackpool, the missus told me she was pregnant. That was a mental day!

Worst memory: Getting beaten 9-0 at Celtic Park when I was with Aberdeen. It sounds daft but  I had an all-right game! It was horrible.
 
Best friend in football: Vass (Kyle Vassell) is up there. I got to know him when we were at Blackpool together. There's him, Colin Daniel and Will Aimson. We were all at Blackpool. We've still got a group chat going. I came down to Rotherham to do my medical on the Friday before we started pre-season and was in the Carlton Park Hotel. Vass said: 'Where are you?' and I told him I was in Rotherham. I went down to reception and he was there! He hadn't told me all summer that he was coming to Rotherham. Neither of us knew about the other.

Millers roommate: Vass.

Funniest Millers teammate: Jon Taylor. Although he has no idea he's being funny half of the time! He's not the brightest, is he?

Best-dressed teammate: I'd maybe say Newelly (Joe Newell). Definitely Newelly on a Friday! He stays over and goes clothes shopping to Meadowhall.

Worst-dressed teammate: Marek (Rodak) probably. He comes in in the same gear lots of times. I'm not sure he's even got a washing machine.

Longest in the shower: Pricey (Lewis Price) maybe.

Messiest teammate: Baz (Joe Mattock). His area of the dressing room always has stuff lying around in it.

Cleverest teammate: Pricey or Woody (Richard Wood).

Daftest teammate: I think we've already covered that one!

If you weren't a footballer what would you be? I think I would have gone down the route of working in my dad's business. That's where my brother works now. I would probably have gone to university and done a business-management course or something.
 
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UPHILL BATTLE TO REACH WARNE'S FITNESS STANDARDS
 
THE dawn alarm calls weren't the only eye-opener for Clark Robertson when he made his summer switch from Blackpool to Rotherham United.

The 7am starts on the pre-season tour were bad enough on their own, but the rigours of the workouts under manager Paul Warne also tested the central defender.

"The training here is miles tougher than anywhere else I've been," Robertson said. "I got a massive shock in Austria with those hill runs at seven in the morning.

"I'm not looking forward to that again this July!”

The former Aberdeen man endured a frustrating start to his Championship career at AESSEAL New York Stadium, suffering an injury just as he was about to break into the side.

"Woody (Richard Wood) was ahead of me and he was playing well, to be fair," Robertson says.

"I came on at Wigan as a substitute at the start of September when Raggs (Sean Raggett) damaged his ankle and I did well.

"But then on the Monday in training I tore my groin and was out for the best part of two months. It came at a really bad time because I thought I was going to get my chance in the team.”

"Training is tough here. Maybe my body just wasn't up to it and that's why I tore my groin. I worked hard in the gym with the physios to come back stronger."

Robertson's opportunity finally came in late October at Middlesbrough, who were topping the table at the time. He played a starring role in a goalless draw which brought the Millers their first away point of the season and has been a first-choice pick ever since.

"Boro was a tough place to go to, but I didn't really put a foot wrong and I felt I more than held my own," the 25-year-old says.

"I've kept my place since and feel I've kicked on with every game I've played. I feel comfortable in the Championship. I feel I belong at this level now.

"I always believed I could play at this level and I'm grateful to Rotherham for giving me the chance. I don't think I've looked out of place."
 
**************************
 
CAREER STATS
 
Aberdeen (2009/2015): 68 appearances, no goals.

Blackpool (2015/2018): 137 appearances, five goals.

Millers (2018/present): 24 appearances, two goals.
 


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