THE difficulty Andy Robertson had getting into the Liverpool first team at the start of this season was concerning for those in this country who had been heartened to see, at long last, a Scottish player win a move to a leading English club during the summer.

After signing from Hull City in an £8 million deal in July, he played in just two Barclays Premier League matches, against Crystal Palace and Burnley at home, and one Carabao Cup game, against Leicester City away, in the space of four months.

It was a far from impressive start. Would the former Queen’s Park and Dundee United defender fail to establish himself at Anfield and be moved on? Many feared the worst.

Yet, Gary Gillespie, whose career took an almost identical path to that of his young compatriot, was always confident Robertson would come good eventually as he went through exactly the same difficult process after joining Liverpool from Coventry City in 1983.

“I had to wait two years to become a regular,” said Gillespie. “Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson kept me out. I had to be patient. It was hard to take because I had been a regular before that. But I could understand why. Liverpool were winning leagues and European Cups. You had to bide your time.”

It all worked out well for Gillespie in the end; the Scotland centre half helped Liverpool win three English titles in the eight seasons he spent on the books at Anfield during that halcyon era.

Now a member of the commentary team at LFC TV, he has no doubts that Robertson, who is poised to make his first ever Champions League appearance in the last 16 tie against Porto in the Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday evening, will go on and enjoy similar success.

He feels the young left back is already ahead of schedule having embraced the considerable demands which are put on him in games by his manager Jurgen Klopp and been widely praised for his coruscating performances in recent weeks.

“I had to wait two years to become a Liverpool regular,” he said. “Andy has done it in six months. From what I can gather, he found it a little bit strange, a little bit hard at times, at first. I think the manager’s training methods were a challenge for him to begin with. It took him a little while to settle in.

“There is quite a strong emphasis on the full-backs the way Liverpool play under Jurgen Klopp. The full-backs play tremendously high up the pitch and with a high intensity. It is probably one of the hardest roles in the team.

“They are expected to get up the park and support the front players, but they are also expected to defend situations as well. It demands an awful lot of the right back and left back. But as we have seen Andy is capable, more than capable, of being that kind of player.

“He is a model pro. He never complained. He just got his head down, worked exceptionally hard and is reaping the rewards at this time. I don’t think the manager could leave him out now with the way he is performing.”

Gillespie added: “He is the first Scotsman for years to be part of the Liverpool first team. McCallister was obviously there, but Gary was coming to the end of his career when he moved to Anfield. Hopefully, young Andrew has got quite a bit still ahead of him.

“It is great to see, especially with the history and tradition Liverpool have with Scottish players. It is fantastic to see him not just come in, but play as well as he has in recent weeks.”

The undoubted highlight came in the 4-3 win over Manchester City, who were previously unbeaten domestically, in an astonishing Premier League game at Anfield last month.

Robertson provided one of the moments of the match, and very possibly the season down south, with a lung-bursting run upfield that ended up with him harrying the City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and rival defender Nicolas Otamendi at the other end of the park.

“Fans love that kind of thing, that kind of commitment, regardless of where you are, but especially at Liverpool,” said Gillespie. “It goes a long way to winning over the supporters. He is gradually becoming one of the fans’ favourites down here.”

Having been understudy to Alberto Moreno, the Spanish left back, in the Liverpool side in the first half of the season Robertson is now firmly established in the position with, Gillespie argues, good reason.

“Andy has learned a lot,” he said. “He takes up good positions off his centre backs. He obviously goes forward, but what is important is the timing of the runs, knowing when to go and when not to go. No left back will get it 100 per cent right, but he gets it right more often than not.

“Moreno is one of these players who just kind of bombs on. I don’t think he appreciates the defensive side of the game as much as Andy does.

“Raheem Sterling has been on fire this season, scoring goals and tearing teams apart. But Andrew had a great contest with him and came out on top. For me, that is what full-backs have to do. That gets lost a little bit these days. Everyone wants to play football, but, ultimately, it is you against the right winger. If you can stop the right winger then you have done your job.”

Taking on Porto, unbeaten in the Primeira Liga in Portugal this season, away in midweek, then, will hold no fears for Robertson.

Gillespie, who played for Scotland against Brazil at the World Cup in Italy in 1990, believes his country will ultimately benefit from the player’s involvement at the very highest level in Europe in future.

“It can only do him good,” he said. “Scotland don’t play the same way as Liverpool. He will have to adjust. But the good thing is he is getting experience at the highest level. The Champions League will be good for him and that will help Scotland as well.

“Liverpool can go a long way in the Champions League. They still aren’t the finished article. But Virgil van Dijk will certainly help. Going out and paying £75 million for a defender, making him the world’s most expensive defender, is a statement. That shows Liverpool want to be pushing for bigger and better things.”

That is certainly true of Andy Robertson now the Scotland left back has overcome a tough start to his Liverpool career and is flourishing.