First Touch

The Barry Robson Interview (Aberdeen)

Dave Bowler goes one on one with Aberdeen’s former MLS player Barry Robson.

Barry Robson

By Dave Bowler

One day you’re just another member of the team, the next, after a couple of old faces move on, you find yourself the senior pro. With Russell Anderson and Jamie Langfield heading off on their respective new adventures, former MLS star Barry Robson is the real voice of experience in the Aberdeen dressing room. As far as Barry is concerned, actions speak louder than words though…

“The big thing for me is the way you do things. I’ve played a lot of games over the years and played in a lot of big games. But for me, it does not matter who you are playing, even if I am playing for the U20s like I did at times last season, you want to win. I think the kids see that desire, see someone at my age still desperate to win in every game and I think they learn from that.

Winning Mentality

“I remember the manager very much being like that when we played together at Dundee United. Derek McInnes always wanted to win. He also always spent a lot of time in the gym. One thing that he said that always stuck with me was, “If I work harder through the week, I will be fitter and better than my opponent on a Saturday”. That is so true.

“That is what young players have to realise. Football has to be your life. It has to be everything. Maybe you don’t need to think about the game as much as I have, but you must have that desire to make sure every day you are trying your best. You have to live the right way and always try and make yourself a better player. Young players have to fight that little bit harder to try and get in the team and to stay in the team.

“I am honest enough to admit I learned the hard way when I was a youngster at Rangers. I thought I had made it but next thing I knew, I was out the door and having to try and find a football club. Also I was having to fight to save my career. I had to go and play in the lower leagues for a while. It was a long hard road. It probably hurt me medalwise and certainly hurt me financially.

barry robson

Long Hard Road

“When I look at other players I played with when I was a youngster, they went on and won a lot more than I did. I am not saying that I was as good a player as some of them, but if I’d had the right mentality at that age my career might have been different. I just think mentally I was not ready and did not know what it was all about.

“It was a long hard road but I made sure I fought my way back. I would play on a Saturday and then I would be up first thing on a Sunday morning, running on treadmills. I would then train on a Monday and then I would always go and do extra. It was basically pure hard work. It is amazing how far hard work and desire can get you. That is what the younger kids at Pittodrie need to do”.

While Barry has plenty of wisdom to impart to the youth of today, being around the youngsters does him no harm either.

Dressing Room Banter

“Being in a dressing room environment, you do not feel your age because it is a younger culture, so you do feel young. As soon as I walk through the dressing room door, the boys are having a go at me about my clothes. But I have been in a lot of dressing rooms over the years and there is no one in there that could come for me with the banter! I can take them all down a bit with a couple of sentences!

“It will be the dressing room that I will miss when I stop playing. Hopefully I can enjoy this year and you never know what will happen in the future after that.


“I always knew that I could play quite long into my career as I have always looked after myself. It is more a case of me proving my worth to the manager every year that I am here. The big thing for me is that the desire is still there. I want to lift a trophy again. It is great that I will be here for another season and I will be trying very hard to try and win something.

“I played three or four games towards the end of last season and I just felt I was not ready to hang up the boots yet. I still feel that I can run games and fitnesswise, it is not a problem, so why should I stop if I still feel like that? Also, I will be the first person to put my hands up if I think that I cannot contribute to the team in any sort of way, although I am sure the manager would tell me as well! I still feel though that I can make a big contribution to the side this season.


“I’ve been reasonably lucky with injury over the years. I had a bad injury when I was at Celtic when I had problems with my groins, but touch wood, I have not had any problems with my knees or my ankles, so in that sense it has been quite good. It is just a case of looking after my muscles but I feel good. I know how to look after myself and the manager is brilliant with me that way. I know how hard I can push myself or if I have to sit out a few sessions.

“As a midfielder it is the one position on the pitch where you have to have legs. Maybe when I was younger I would be all over the pitch, now I have to use my head more. It is something the manager and I have spoken about. There is a certain type of way he wants to play in certain types of games and there will be a way he wants me to play to contribute to the team.

I adapt my game to the needs of the manager. I enjoy that but you still need to have the desire to be competitive in the middle of the park, the desire to win headers and tackles. That has to be first and foremost before anything else.


“But I enjoyed racing all the young boys at pre-season! That is just the way I am and the way I have always been throughout my career and always will be. When that leaves you then I will know it is time but as I say the desire is still burning inside. I can still hold my own in all the fitness tests”.

You can hear the competitive edge in Barry’s voice when he talks about pre-season, and it’s that winning mentality that drives him on even now.

“I think the manager signed Willo and myself because we were that type of players and type of people. The manager is also like that and so is Tony Docherty. We play head tennis some days after training and Tony can be a worse loser than even me!

That is the type of mentality you need to spread. It is a big football club this and it has not been where it should have been in previous years. A big thing for the manager is making Aberdeen a big club again and making Pittodrie an intimidating place to come and play again.


“Every club I have been at has been different with different types of quality. At Celtic there was some quality, at Middlesbrough there was some unbelievable quality and I can see the quality that is here. However what I think makes a good side is being a team.

That is the most important thing. I have been in teams where there is a lot of quality but the team is full of individuals. I am a bigger believer that is all about the team. With quality individuals, they can win you games but to be successful over a longer period, to win trophies you need a team with hunger and desire.

“I don’t know if Aberdeen’s lack of success in previous seasons was because of a soft centre or a lack of desire. I don’t want to be disrespectful because there were some great managers and some great players here over the years but for whatever reason, it did not work.


“The one thing we have to make sure of as players is that no one rolls us over. If we have a bad day then we have a bad day, but we dig in and work hard for each other and try and get through it. You are not going to play well every week but you can see that fight out on the pitch and that is a big thing. It is a big thing being able to get results even when you are not at your best. That is the mentality that needs to be set at a football club.

“I think Scottish football has changed over the years I have been playing and now clubs are living within their means. All clubs are trying to bring their own players through again which is the only way for Scottish clubs to go. I do think we can improve technically but the biggest thing we need to improve is the training facilities and that is certainly the case at Aberdeen.

The issues with the training ground have been well documented and I know the club are doing everything they can to get the situation resolved as soon as possible.

Extra Training

When I was at Dundee United, I would stay up at the training ground myself practising free-kicks. After everyone had left, I would hit 40, 50, 60 balls then the bus would come back and get me. So there is no excuse for the younger players not to do it but it is so much easier when you have a training ground and you just walk out onto the field every morning and everything is laid out in front of you.

“You can train harder, you can train longer. You have all your sports science there, you have your canteen there, all the players are there together. It is a hub. All the pitches are better because it is easier for the groundstaff. Then when you come to the stadium on a Saturday, it feels special. You are not training and getting changed at the stadium every day and seeing the pitch every day.


“Saying that, the variety that Europe brings has been really good for us I think. The start to the league campaign is a real sign that we are learning to deal with that. We played in Europe last year and had a good run – the win against Groningen in my opinion is the best European result we have had – but then we lost a number of the opening league games.

“This season we have won our first three games. That is learning. The manager is constantly looking for improvement and that is the most important thing. It is now a case of carrying it on. It is a long, long season. We know injuries will come, we know suspensions will come but that is why we have got the squad we have got, to be able to cope with that. I’m really pleased with the way things have opened up for us. Now we need to carry that on”.

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