David Robertson Returns to Scotland to Become Peterhead FC's New Manager
From the war zone to the relegation zone. Football Careers client David Robertson has swapped life with Real Kashmir, the side he made a fairytale Indian success story, for a return home to Scotland and League One Peterhead.
The 54-year-old former Aberdeen, Rangers and Leeds United left-back – capped three times for Scotland in a sparkling playing career – is back working on home turf after fascinating adventures in both the USA and India that have shaped him as a coach.
After a tough baptism as a boss in Scotland at part-time Elgin City and Montrose after he quit playing, David emigrated to the States and built a stellar reputation as a Director of Coaching at Sereno Soccer Club in Phoenix, Arizona. He also spent a year in charge of Phoenix FC in the USL and that in time whetted his appetite for pro management again.
The path, though, would be an unusual one when five years ago he was appointed Head Coach of Real Kashmir in India’s second tier. Robbo relished the challenge, though, and he transformed the club into a top-flight team in a journey that was chronicled in two award-winning BBC documentaries. David was coaching in a region still rocked by the Kashmir Conflict between India and Pakistan and he said:
“We created a monster of Indian football and I am proud that we managed to do that in the most militarised zone in the world. It was very difficult for me to call it a day at Real Kashmir because I was very emotionally attached to the club but I felt they needed to go in a different direction. I also needed a little more sanity in my life and to come home.”
That now means Peterhead and the mission to lift them off the foot of Scotland’s League One after the end of Jim McInally’s 11-year reign in charge at Balmoor. This job now divides clearly into two segments, his long-term plans for the club and the immediate task to avoid the drop into League Two.
“There’s players coming from all over and a lot of teams in the league are like that. We’ve just got to deal with what we have at the moment. I’ve got plans moving forward as to how we’d like to do it, but there’s also things I’d like to do with the club within the community, within the north-east of Scotland.
“There’s a lot of things and I’ve got of ideas as to how we can be more cohesive as a club and a group. But that’s way down the line – there’s immediate stuff to deal with.”
David was 34 years old when he first made the transition to management two decades ago at Elgin City. He was a Rolls Royce of a player, an attacking left-back years ahead of his time who proved to be worth every penny of the 970,000 GBP transfer fee Walter Smith laid out to make him a key part of Rangers’ legendary Nine-in-a-Row team.
Yet he recognises that back then as a coach he just wasn’t ready for the switch to part-time football. He recalled:
“I’d gone from playing in the Premiership with Leeds to the Third Division and part-time football. When I came to Elgin there were hardly any players and, until we trained for the first time, I didn’t realise logistically how difficult it is.
“I probably wasn’t ready for that type of job. I’ve got my UEFA Pro Licence now and then I was doing my B Licence. I was the youngest manager in the UK at that point and very wet behind the ears. I’ll never forget the experiences I had there but – certainly as a coach – I’ve grown.
“The important thing for me is the environment and the team spirit. From being in the USA, in Scotland and in Kashmir in particular, that’s one thing I’m good at.”