Dundee kid Fin Robertson has opened up on the pressure of being the Dark Blues ‘safety valve’ as he adjusts to life as a top-team star.
It has been a whirlwind journey for the 17-year-old since bursting onto the scene in the final game of last season.
Just 16 at the time, his life was quickly turned upside down as he went from fan to first-team debut against St Mirren.
The young midfielder might not have thought he’d make such an impact at the time but, following the Dee’s relegation to the Championship, he has gone on to make 20 appearances this term.
Pulling on the dark blue jersey has been a dream for the Dundonian for as long as he can remember.
Although he’s now a bona fide senior player, Robertson says the older heads keep him in check.
“I moved through to the first-team changing-room but I still feel like one of the young boys,” he said.
“I think that helps you because, if you get too far ahead of yourself, then you become complacent and that’s when things start to go wrong. You’ve got to keep your mind right and stay focused.
“When I try to have banter, Marsh (Jordan Marshall) puts me back in my place!
“Dozza (Graham Dorrans), Gowser (Paul McGowan) and Kano (Hemmings) – they’re experienced and Dorrans has played at the highest level in the Premier League.
“That’s what I want to do, so whenever I get the chance to learn off him and speak to him, he’s given me good advice.
“If I’m training and I do something wrong, he might come over and speak to me to tell me how to do other things to improve myself.
“Christophe Berra has been another good addition and, for me, it’s just more advice I can get off people.
“Having all of them can only be a good thing, surrounding myself with experienced players that have done it at the highest level.
“It’s just all the little things you learn off them you wouldn’t know through 18s football – like how to see a game out. They’ve done it for years and years so it can help my game a long way.”
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As much as he’s learning from the Dark Blues’ first-team men, Robertson has a very important job of his own.
He describes himself as the Dee’s ‘safety valve’ but is open to trying new roles as he aims to open his account for the club.
“My first job is to defend the goal but, if I get forward, I want to get more shots away,” he added. “I’m more like the safety valve and that lets Dozza and Gowser go to work. If I get the chance to shoot I’d fancy my chances.
“I’m open to trying new positions but when the gaffer puts me in there I’ve got to do my job and try to stop goals.”
As for playing at Dens, he can handle the heat and the added expectation which comes with being a fan and local lad.
“I like the pressure of knowing you have to perform,” he asserts.
“If there’s no pressure then there’s no real point in doing anything.
“At the start I felt a bit more like a fan and got invested in it that way but now I’m a player it’s more about being focused on getting the job done. I can’t let the fan side of it affect how I play.
“Everything changes because you think it’s all sunshine and rainbows but it’s a lot of hard work you’ve got to put in that other people don’t see.
“The Dundee fans have been brilliant and really pushed me on.
“I’ve had a couple photos taken with people in the shops but it’s not been too crazy yet!
“It’s a wee bit strange getting used to that at the start. Seeing myself on TV was a bit weird because it all just came so quickly. Now I’m learning to deal with it better and it’s just something that happens.
“I sometimes get a slagging from my pals if I misplace a pass or that but nothing more!”
It’s a cut-throat world in men’s football and something Robertson is learning quickly from the most senior of pros.
Asked who his toughest opponent has been so far, he said: “Stephen Dobbie when we played Queen of the South. I thought he was unbelievable, he’s just so quick and sharp.
“Kenny Miller when he was at Partick as well. The older guys just do everything so quick, mentally, and before you know it they’re away.
“Craig Bryson was a good battle. I enjoyed that because we were the underdogs in that game.
“He’s been down playing in the English Championship with Derby for years and I thought I showed I can do that as well.”
As for this season and beyond, Robertson is keen to kick on his own young career while helping bring success to Dundee.
“We all know we aren’t where we want to be with the squad we’ve got,” he admits.
“We’ve got unbelievable players and that win against Partick was big for us because, hopefully, we can go on a good run now. We need to get pushing up that table.
“I just want to try to get back in the team. I’ve not started the last four games so I just want to try to get my place back in the starting XI and keep building on it for next season.
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“I just want to get a lot of games under my belt. You need as many as you can to try to stay about the first-team and get minutes.
“The best way to learn is to get in amongst it and try to get maybe 30-40 games and build on that.
“The manager’s not mentioned a new deal yet but, hopefully, if I keep pushing forward that might happen one day as well.”