When Scott Robertson told his agent he was willing to “listen to offers from anywhere” after deciding to turn down the offer of a new contract with Hibs, the midfielder could never have envisaged ending up in Romania.
But today the 30-year-old insisted he was excited at the prospect of becoming the first Scottish player to make the move to Liga 1 after clinching a two-year deal with FC Botosani.
Having spent ten days in pre-season training in Austria with his new team-mates, Robertson will see his club in action for the first time tomorrow night as they take on Georgian outfit Spartaki Tskhinvali in the first round of the Europa League. The former Dundee, Dundee United and Blackpool star is unable to play as he wasn’t registered in time for the tie, only putting pen to paper last night, but he has his fingers crossed they make it through to the second round where a clash with Polish side Legia Warsaw awaits the winners.
Today, in an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Robertson admitted moving to the north-east of Romania – with the Moldovan border only a few miles to the east and that of Ukraine a short distance to the north – had been a tough decision, particularly as it means leaving his family behind. He said: “It’s going to be tough because even when I was playing with Hibs we continued to stay in Dundee. It wasn’t an easy decision but I didn’t want to unsettle them any more. I’m going to miss them but I plan to get back as often as I can during international breaks while they have a winter shutdown in Romania from mid-December to February when I’m told the temperature in Botosani plunges well below freezing which means I’ll be home at Christmas.”
And, after seeing his move from Dundee to Blackpool turn sour – he made only one appearance during a spell he described as “torture” – Robertson is determined to seize this opportunity.
He said: “I’d told my agent I would be willing to listen to offers from anywhere when he asked me what my thoughts were on where I wanted to go but, I have to admit, I hadn’t given Romania a thought. But, as soon as I heard about it, I was excited. It’s a massive chance for me to establish myself in a different country.
“After moving away last time [to Blackpool] and it not working out this is an opportunity to show I’m capable. I’m under no illusions thinking it’s going to be easy. I’m 2000 miles away this time rather than less than 200, but I’m more prepared.
“It’s a massive change but I’ve been here ten days. I’ve been with the players at the training camp in Austria and I liked what the coach [Leontin Grozavu] had to say, how he wants the team to play and I think that will suit me. The good thing is a number of the players speak English, some quite fluently – a couple of others not too badly – while I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of Romanian. And, in any case, you quickly get to know the footballing phrases you need. I’ve been playing a bit of catch-up having missed a bit of pre-season but I’d like to think that by the time the league season kicks off I won’t be far away. The team play in the Europa League against a Georgian side tomorrow night so that will be a chance for me to see them in competitive action. The second leg is next week and then the season kicks off the following Sunday.”
Although Botosani finished eighth in the league last season, they qualified for the Europa League after four other clubs failed to obtain UEFA licences but Robertson revealed he already has his eyes set on a top-six place in the coming season.
He said: “The league here is a bit like Scotland. It’s dropped from an 18-team league to 14 with a top six and a bottom eight so finishing in the top half-dozen is what we are aiming for. Botosani are a realitively new club. They haven’t been in existence long but have won promotion to the top league and, because of what has happened, have managed to end up in the Europa League for the first time. Where we’re situated, we are miles away from any other club so there’s going to be a lot of long journeys by coach and a couple of games I’m told we’ll fly to. But, coming back from the training camp saw us sitting on a bus for 36 hours although the trip was split over two days.
“The stadium [the 12,000 capacity Stadionul Municipal] is quite nice but doesn’t have a roof as, apparently, it hardly ever rains here. The training facilities are nothing like East Mains but we have a coach very similar to Craig Flannigan at Hibs, who takes fitness and strength and conditioning. Knowing how much all of that helped me during my time at Hibs, that’s something I’m keen to keep going now I am over here.
“At the moment, I’m being put up in a hotel but it’s up to me whether I want to look for an apartment. It’s quite a change, but something I’m really looking forward to.”