Aaron Hickey, Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and Lewis Stevenson - what is it about our left-backs?
It’s not a joke position any more
When I was a boy and duties on the football field were being allocated, the goalie gloves always went to our school’s Fotherington-Tomas. You know: weedy, quivering, National Health specs. In your school, too, I bet.
But there was another position from which hardly any glory was expected to accrue: “You’re left-back? Left back in the changing-rooms, most likely!”
But look at us now. We’re left-back specialists, left-back exemplars. Where once Scotland made ships, now it turns out left-backs.
And what a week it has been for our guys in what is nominally the No 3 shirt. First, young Aaron Hickey, late of Hearts, makes a sparkling debut for his new club Bologna against Parma in Serie A. I love reading the write-ups of foreign football hacks, they’re always so lyrical. The man from Gazzetta dello Sport said of the 18-year-old that he “takes on many initiatives with great personality” and I’m going to try and work that line into my next match report. I was less keen, though, on Gazzetta terming Hickey “a player acquired out of almost nowhere”. Have Italians not heard of the fragrant land of Gorgie-zola, home to the scarf-twirling Jambo denizens?
Then came what the English papers called “the battle of the Scotland left-backs”. It’s a long, long time since our friends in the south fanfared any contest like this, but such is the pre-eminence of Andy Robertson at Liverpool (best left-back in the world?) and the fast-rising reputation of Kieran Tierney now he’s escaped oblivion at Celtic and joined Arsenal.
Then on Friday night at Easter Road another left-back was achieving a notable milestone when Lewis Stevenson quietly - as is his way - edged aside Eddie Turnbull to claim fifth place on the all-time Hibernian appearance list.
See? Left-back can offer a long career. The glamour of Italy can open up to its incumbents. And on Thursday Robertson and Tierney will pool resources and try to help the national team closer to the Euros. Soon, everyone will want to play at left-back and the jokes will stop completely.
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