It promises to be one of the biggest weeks in the life of Robert Snodgrass, but today the former Livingston midfielder insisted he’ll take the next few days in his stride.
The 24-year-old looks forward to claiming his sixth Scotland cap tomorrow night as Craig Levein’s squad complete their preparations for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign with a friendly against Australia at Easter Road, three days later he’ll make his bow in the English Premier League, facing Fulham at Craven Cottage following his £3 million move from Leeds United to Norwich City.
It’s almost as if his club and international careers are moving in parallel, Snodgrass serving lengthy “apprenticeships” at both levels as he’s steadily worked his way up from helping wash cars and clean Livingston’s Almondvale Stadium to making his name starring in some 200 matches for Leeds to earn his place in what is widely regarded as the best league in the world.
In the dark blue of Scotland it has been a similar story, Snodgrass part of the Under-19 squad which made the final of the European Championships in Poland in 2006 and the Under-20 World Cup in Canada the following year.
His feet, though, remain very firmly on terra firma, Snodgrass adamant the apprenticeship he received as a kid in West Lothian has stood him in good stead as he’s taken each step in his career.
He said: “Learning your trade, that’s what any football player will tell you it is all about. The upbringing you have serves you well in your career. At Livingston we had the jobs you had to do as youngsters, cleaning cars, the stadium. Obviously the aim is to get into the first team but there’s a package that comes with it.
“I don’t know if they did it at other clubs, but that was the way it was at Livingston. You may look back on it and not like it, but all the coaches and management did it for a reason. There was that bit of strictness, getting your discipline sorted out.”
Those days have long since gone, Snodgrass moving on to a world where pre-season matches included the likes of Ajax and Borussia Moenchengladbach rather than local Junior sides while Manchester United and City, Arsenal, Chelsea and so on fill the fixture list of the coming months.
Daunting it may appear, but Snodgrass harbours no such doubts. He said: “It’s another step in my career but one I firmly believe I can handle. I’ve played against Manchester United – we knocked them out of the FA Cup – and Arsenal when we came within a couple of minutes of doing the same to them, both full-strength sides.
“I know myself I wouldn’t have made the move if I didn’t feel I could handle it. There’s a good bunch of lads at Norwich, a good team spirit and the way the club has gone about its business in the last two or three years has been terrific. They have also shown a lot of faith in me, making possibly four or five bids to get me in the door.
“I had four unbelievable years at Leeds, playing nearly 200 games. It was a good time, but the window of opportunity to go to the Premier League doesn’t come about too often. It’s hard to turn down but I did so last year because I had enjoyed my time at Leeds. We hadn’t been too far way from promotion in the Championship that first year so I stayed. But the plans they had did not really worked out and I knew this was the time to move on and try to challenge myself at the highest level.”
Snodgrass’ step up to the top flight in England would appear to enhance his chances of establishing himself as a regular in Levein’s squads, but the Glasgow-born star is adamant there is no such guarantee, even claiming a polished performance against the Aussies tomorrow night won’t, at least in his mind, count for too much in the greater scheme of things.
And he was equally certain in his assertion that although this may be Scotland’s final warm-up match ahead of opening their World Cup qualifying campaign with a Hampden double-header against Serbia and Macedonia next month, it won’t alter his approach to the game.
“Every match for your country is important, you put everything you have into any game you play. Even club friendlies you want to do as well as you can, you want that competitive edge in every game you play.
“I’m not looking too far ahead in terms of next month, that’s the manager’s choice. I am one of those people who lives for the day. I will approach this game as I would any other, I won’t try harder, I always put in 110 per cent and see where that takes me.
“It’s unusual to have an international match before my first competitive game of the season but I’ve had a good few 90 minutes under my belt, Ajax, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Hull City and Mk Dons but to play against Manchester United, Manchester City and so on every week if first class.
“It’s what everyone drives towards but you have to earn that right to play. Hard work is the ethic and sometimes you get the rewards.”