James Crombie/INPHO Callum Robinson.
'I was disappointed to see how many people jumped down his throat' - Egan and Kenny defend 'vilified' Robinson
The Irish manager and captain are sticking by Callum Robinson, after his comments on the Covid-19 vaccine caused a stir internationally.

STEPHEN KENNY AND John Egan each issued a strong defence of Callum Robinson on the eve of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku. 

Robinson created international headlines when he revealed on Tuesday that he has not taken a Covid-19 vaccine, saying, “I haven’t been vaccinated, no. That’s my choice at this moment in time.” His comments provoked debate and argument in the Irish and UK press, and the extent of its cut-through evident in the fact it was a topic on Wednesday’s Liveline. 

“First and foremost Cal was asked a question, he gave an answer”, said Egan at today’s pre-match press conference. “He didn’t come out and say he was against the vaccination so I was quite disappointed to see how many people jumped down his throat.

“Whether to get the vaccination or not, it’s a personal choice. As a team-mate and a friend, I back my team-mates and I back my friends. It doesn’t mean I believe the same way and it doesn’t mean everyone is going to believe the same way, but I don’t think Cal came out and said he was against the vaccination.

He simply answered a question and said he hadn’t had it yet. Cal’s a team-mate of mine, a friend of mine so hopefully he can kick on with Ireland and do well.” 

Egan declined to answer several follow-up questions on the matter. 

“To be honest I would prefer to speak about football. We have a football game tomorrow. To be honest, vaccination is a really touchy subject, we’ve talked about it now and that should be enough.” 

Manager Stephen Kenny, meanwhile, also stood by Robinson by saying he has been vilified for his honesty before the press, clumsily using the word “infectious” in a pean to his character and enthusiasm. 

“Callum Robinson is such a popular member of the squad, he’s a breath of fresh air. He always comes in with a smile on his face, he’s infectious, he brings laughter to the dressing room, people love him. He has great qualities as a man and great qualities as a human being.

“He has attracted a lot of criticism because he came into a press conference and where the vast majority of players refuse to answer the question, he was open and transparent. He has been vilified for it. He’s a terrific person, and all of the players would verify that.” 

Kenny addressed the topic in greater depth than Egan, and was asked if the reaction to Robinson has promoted discussions around vaccination in the Irish camp. 

“It’s a fair question but I’m not going to elaborate on everyone’s specific reasons. I don’t know everyone’s reasons. Some of them have valid reasons, some of them have beliefs, but the vast majority of players are vaccinated. It’s not been a factor or dominated the conversation in the camp as we have been very focused on the game.” 

“On Callum himself, he has been up front and honest and has been vilified. He is a breath of fresh air in our squad and everyone speaks so highly of him. He is a very popular member of the squad and he is determined to do well. It is well-documented that he has missed a number of games so he determined to grab the opportunity and do himself justice. No doubt, he is one of our better attacking players and will be looking forward to getting on the pitch and doing well tomorrow.

“He understands it but he is a professional and is very, very focused on the game. I think he said he wasn’t against the vaccination but just wanted more time to consider for different reasons, and that was his viewpoint at the time and we have to respect that.

“He loves playing the game. He is a very infectious character. He is quite versatile and can play in a number of positions. He wants to make and impact, and hasn’t been available to play for us for a while.

“He had a terrific game in Serbia initially in our first game of the campaign, so he is very deteremind to try to do well tomorrow. He scored a few goals recently for West Brom so hopefully he can take that into the international game tomorrow night.” 

john-egan Sergio Ruiz / INPHO John Egan. Sergio Ruiz / INPHO / INPHO

Jason Knight and Adam Idah are doubts for the game as both have come down with a fever, though both players have tested negative for Covid-19. Having missed training yesterday, both are training with the squad tonight, with a decision yet to be made on whether they are well enough to be involved tomorrow night. 

Ireland remain without a competitive win under Kenny, and Egan batted away a question asking whether the players are playing for their manager’s job in Baku. 

“Everytime we step onto the pitch we’re fighting for our own jobs, never mind the manager’s job. We’re all in this together. Every player, every member of staff, the manager: we all want to win games for our country, we’re very passionate about it. No matter when we play, no matter who we play, our aim is to always fight for each other and fight for ourselves. That’s just the way we are as Irish people.”

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