When Andy Robertson stops to reflect on the last three years, he struggles to quite believe the scale of his achievements. “Especially the ‘writing the book’ part!”
Robertson is the first Liverpool player to commit last season’s historic Premier League title win to posterity in the form of the written word. It was something he was slightly unsure about to begin with, by his own admission. “I was a bit nervous, apprehensive to do it at the start.”
The motivation, though, is twofold. Firstly, all the proceeds will go towards his newly-formed AR26 charity foundation helping underprivileged children in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Secondly, he says it will act as a “love letter” to his team-mates, the staff and the supporters who have made his Anfield career to date so special.
“When you sign here you know what the expectations are, what the feelings are, especially towards the Premier League trophy and the Champions League,” the former Queen’s Park left-back says. “So the fact we’ve managed to win both in a short space of time, that is incredible for me.”
And yet, with the new season a week old, his focus has already shifted away from the success of the last few years and onto the challenges ahead, particularly as this weekend sees the champions come up against a team attempting to prove that they are contenders.
Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge is the first genuine test of Liverpool’s title defence - or ‘attack’, as Jurgen Klopp has taken to calling it. The meeting with big-spending Chelsea has been made all the more intriguing by the growing sense that these two straight-up don’t like each other.
The evidence comes in Klopp’s recent comments suggesting his success is not built on the wealth of “countries or oligarchs”, which followed Frank Lampard’s X-rated rants in the direction of the home dugout at Anfield last season on the night that Robertson and his team-mates finally lifted the Premier League trophy.
“I think these things are maybe not as bad as that, but when there are 50, 60 thousand fans in the ground these things happen a lot more regularly,” Robertson says of the touchline spat, playing down any talk of a burgeoning bad blood. “Maybe the punters are just getting to see that side of the game now.
“Obviously, there was a video of Frank at the end of last season, but he apologised for it. He used language you wouldn’t use, but that is part and parcel of it, the emotion of the game.
“He’s a young manager who’s done unbelievably well for Chelsea so far getting them into the Champions League last season and going to try and compete this season. There’s always an edge when you play your rivals and we don’t take much notice of what has been said or anything like that.”
There is an acknowledgement that Chelsea are rivals to Liverpool once again, however, despite finishing 33 points adrift. That is no small part down to their £203m summer spending spree and especially the capture of long-term Anfield target Timo Werner.
Yet Robertson is reluctant to compare Sunday’s opponents to the Liverpool side he joined, which was about to embark on a period of historic success.
“Different people have different structures, different transfer targets, different ways of how they build the club and things like that,” he says. “I wouldn’t say it’s the same. Obviously, they’ve spent a good amount of money, which they hope brings them success trying to build a squad after their transfer ban. Their signings are, for a neutral, exciting.
“They had very good players last season but they’ve improved their squad. They hope to be challenging and we expect that and we expect a tough game on Sunday but I wouldn’t really compare it to us. Every team’s different and we all go on our different journeys and I think the new Chelsea journey is just starting out.”
Liverpool’s journey may be far from over yet, though. A quiet summer saw only Kostas Tsimikas arrive as backup for Robertson in the transfer market and a lack of squad regeneration led many to plump for Manchester City as title winners in the pre-season predictions.
And yet, the champions finally completed the long-awaited signing of Thiago Alcantara - arguably their most high-profile signing of the Premier League era - in an initial £20m deal from Bayern Munich on Friday. A £35m move from Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers is now also in the offing.
It could be the case that, by the time of the 5 October deadline, Klopp’s squad is stronger on paper than at any point during Robertson’s Anfield career.
“I think every season we've been questioned,” he says. “When we lost the Champions League final, everyone thought will they be back or was it a one-off season? We then went into the next season winning the Champions League and just falling short in the Premier League, but even then people said: 'If they didn't beat them this season, they're never going to beat Man City', because of how well we'd done. The following season we went and proved it.
“We've got doubters again, of course we do. We've got people that are backing different teams and that's part and parcel of it, it's part of the fun of it. If we are the so-called underdogs again then we enjoy being underdogs. We've always worked just to win the next game, game to game, and certainly that's worked in the last three years. We're not going to change the way we think, the way we go about our business.
“We've only focused on Chelsea. We don't care about what's happening at Christmas time or who's going to win the league or anything. We focus on getting points on the board and then we'll focus on the Lincoln game after that. These are the things we work to, we work on a game to game basis. It's worked the last three seasons so after that being quite successful, why would we change our ways?”
Robbo: Now You're Gonna Believe Us is on sale now in hardback and ebook. Audiobook coming soon.