EXCLUSIVE: Former Rangers defender reflects on Old Firm showdowns of the ’90s

David Robertson, courtesy of @RangersFACTS

When David Robertson signed with Rangers for £970,000 back in 1991, it was a major coup.  Both Graeme Souness & then Walter Smith were clamoring for a left back who could unseat Stuart Munro from his stranglehold on the position.  Many had tried – Avi Cohen, Chris Vinnicombe,  & Jan Bartram – but no one was up to the task.

Enter Robertson, who had already established himself as one of Scotland’s premier left backs in his 135 appearances with Aberdeen.  Robertson, then 23, was entering the prime of an already impressive career & he was going to do it with a club entering its halcyon days.  Robertson would help Rangers win the league, each & every season he was at Ibrox.  Robertson featured for Walter Smith’s team from 1991-1997.  He made 183 appearances in those years & scored 15 goals.  In hindsight, he is among the best left backs to play for the club in the last few decades.  

He went on to finish out his career with Leeds United & Montrose & has since moved to America where he is oversees a youth soccer development program in Arizona.

He recently spoke to Rangers Report about his memories with Rangers – specifically his battles in Old Firm games.

courtesy of @RangersFACTS

What are your lasting memories from your first Old Firm match?  Were you caught off guard by the intensity?  Are there moments from the game that resonate to this day?

My first Old Firm game was completely different to what I imagined it to be.  The atmosphere & noise was incredible & was the same the whole game.  I could not hear my teammates shout instructions, you really are on your own out there  on the field.

When you played in Old Firm matches, did you have to be very deliberate about reminding yourself of certain things before & during the match?  (i.e technical or mental preparation)

The funny thing about Old Firm games is that you try & think about the game before the game, but it never goes how you plan it to.

The first twenty minutes is survival & the time to get the better of your opponent.

In those days it was almost a free-for-all in the early stages of the game.

Was there much banter on the pitch between the teams?  Were there any particular players, on either team, that relished dishing out the banter i.e. talking trash (as we say in America)?

No, there wasn’t much trash talking. Things were said after challenges but that was in the heat of the moment.  The games were intense and no matter which team’s  form was the best, the games were always so equal.

How would you describe Walter Smith’s demeanor leading up to the game & during half-time talks?  How did he prepare the team for those momentous games?

Walter Smith was a very calm guy & no matter who we were playing the build up always seemed to be low key.  Which helped the players relax and perform.

During his time at Ibrox he was under pressure at times when we lost early season games to Celtic, or if we lost in the Champions League qualifiers.  But he never ever should any signs of stress.  He was always the same guy.

David Robertson, top right corner

What are some of your favorite memories of your time with Rangers?  What were some of your biggest disappointments?

My most favorite moments was really the entire 1992-93 season where we won the domestic treble & almost reached the Champions League final.  That was an unbelievable season.  We also went 44 games unbeaten.  I played all but four games that season.

My biggest disappointments, well there weren’t many.  But I’d have to say it was the couple of years of not winning our Champions League qualifying games.  They were so disappointing particularly because playing in the Champions League was a great experience.

Paolo Di Canio

Back to the Old Firm games, which Celtic players were the most difficult/challenging to play against?

I enjoyed playing against Celtic & in particular Paolo Di Canio & Joe Miller.

Di Canio was a great player but it was easy to get under his skin & frustrate him. I remember one game at Celtic Park & in the last five minutes I was completely dead on my feet, as I kept him under control the whole match,  that at the byline he was doing all these tricks & step-overs that he ran the ball over the line for a goal kick & the honest truth was he could have walked past me as my legs had gone.

Joe Miller was also a great player & many people had said that we hated each other.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  We were both Aberdeen S forms as kids & also played at Aberdeen together.  He was my roommate.

The motivation for me was that I would do anything for him not to get past me as it was more a pride thing.

You seemed to be quite underrated during your career – especially given the lack of opportunities with Scotland?  I was quite surprised to see that you only had the chance to play for the national team three times – what happened?  Was it frustrating at the time, or even now in hindsight?

At Rangers, there were big names & characters. I think in the nine in a row venture I was well up there in appearances.

But, I was a quiet lad that kept my head down & played as hard as I could.

I never hit the headlines.  That was for top guys like Goram, Gough, McCoist, Durrant, Hateley, Gazza, Albertz – the list goes on.

courtesy of @RangersFACTS

Regarding the Scotland set up, as a youth I played every level – including the B team up until I played for the full team.

I was in many squads but never seemed to get a run in the team.

I decided after a trip away with the national team that I did not want to travel just to sit around a hotel when I could be training at Ibrox.  I also felt lethargic whenever I came back.

There were also great players like  Tom Boyd & Tosh McKinlay that played ahead of me.

Many people say I fell out with Craig Brown but that was never the case.  I have a ton of respect for him & Andy Roxburgh. They were great to me at the younger levels & what they achieved in the full national team with what they had at their disposal has never been done since.

I’m not one to look back at situations & I’m more than happy with my playing career.

If someone had said to me when I was leaving school that I would end up playing for my country at every level, end up playing in the Champions League & winning six SPL championships, four Scottish Cups, & four League Cups…I would have bitten their hands off.

Do you still keep tabs on Rangers?  Do you still keep in touch with some of your former teammates?

I still keep in touch with what is going on through the internet. Yeah, I still keep in contact with some of my old teammates, but it’s hard since it’s a long time ago since I was there.

David Robertson, Sereno Soccer Club

You are currently working on youth soccer development in Arizona.  How did you get involved in that & what is your role in the program?

I have been here now for seven years.  We moved from Scotland after leaving Montrose.

I was looking for a new challenge & was approached by the board of Sereno Soccer Club to firstly come over as a coach.

Over the years I have eventually become the Executive Director running the club.

We currently have over 2,000 players in our program both boys and girls.

We successfully place players in national & professional teams & top level collegiate programs.

I oversee a boys director of coaching & girls director of coaching.  We also have six regions – north, south, east, west, Tucson and Nogales.

We have 14 full time members of staff including office staff & coaches. We also have over 20 part time members of staff.

Thanks to @RangersFACTS for sending over some photographs.  You can read his work over at thecoplandroad.org

One thought on “EXCLUSIVE: Former Rangers defender reflects on Old Firm showdowns of the ’90s

  1. Great player ,it was a farce he never got more caps .I think he is being too nice about Roxburgh and Brown.I remember he was in a squad and McKinlay was brought in as an injury replacement and got picked before him.John Brown suffered the same way,I think they were scared to pick any more of our players even though they were by far the best in Scotland.Good Luck Robbo.


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