FOUR PRESTON NORTH End players were named in the latest Republic of Ireland squad on Thursday afternoon, but there could soon be one more if Callum Robinson gets his way.
The 23-year-old, who is comfortable playing anywhere across the front line or out wide, has ambitions to line out for the Boys in Green and is hopeful of earning a call-up later this year.
“I’m not saying that they are going to pick me but I’d like to put it out there that I’m available and looking ahead to the future,” Robinson told The42.
There is a strong Irish contingent at the Championship club right now with Greg Cunningham, Alan Browne, Sean Maguire and Daryl Horgan all in the first-team squad.
16-year-old Adam Reilly is also on the books, while Andy Boyle (Doncaster Rovers), Eoin Doyle (Oldham Athletic) and Kevin O’Connor (Fleetwood Town) are currently out on loan.
Born in Northampton, Robinson qualifies for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, Anne Deighan, who hails from Monaghan. Having moved to England and married, she was tragically killed in a car accident when Callum’s mother, Claire, was a child.
He was signed by Aston Villa at the age of eight and worked his way all the way through their ranks to the senior side — making a Premier League debut at home to Southampton in April 2014.
I was one of the lucky ones to play for the first team as not a lot of players go on to do that,” he says. “It’s a massive club and it was a great achievement to make my league debut. That was a huge game to go into because we were scrapping relegation. It was a really good day for me and my family.
“I played with the likes of Derrick Williams and Enda Stevens, who’ve just got called up to the Ireland squad, Ciaran Clark, Graham Burke and Mikey Drennan at Villa.”
Robinson represented England from U16 to U20 level and played alongside the likes of Luke Shaw, Will Hughes, Jordan Ibe and Chuba Akpom, but he has now opted to switch allegiance.
“I understand that and I’ve had these conversations with Brownie in the gym,” he replies, when asked how he feels about the fact that some people will inevitably question his commitment.
I was gutted when Ireland didn’t get through to the World Cup but I remember seeing supporters in tears and I was just like ‘That’s what it’s about’. I haven’t played for Ireland so don’t know the feeling but when I saw that and I heard the fans, it was amazing.
“You can see what it means to the players, especially James McClean, and the fans help with that. Even when they’re defending you can see it in the likes of Cizza [Ciaran Clark].
“I am often there Snapchatting Greg saying ‘Oh my God, what an atmosphere’.”
Back at club level, loan spells at Preston and Bristol City followed as he went in search of regular game-time.
“I was in and around the Villa team for that whole year that I made my debut and I had a few first team appearances,” he recalls. “The season after that, Paul Lambert just said I would have been doing the same kind of thing, but I’m a player who wants to play and learn so I thought the best thing for me at that time — I was about 18 or 19 — was to go on loan to Preston in League One.”
They were promoted to the Championship and, after a brief stint at Bristol City, he returned to the Lilywhites – signing a three-year deal under Simon Grayson in the summer of 2016. Robinson went on to make 46 appearances in his first year, with a return of 10 goals and six assists.
“Simon had belief in me so it was a no-brainer as I wanted to play football and I knew Villa were going to buy players because they had been relegated to the Championship. I just wanted to be respected as a player and not looked at as one of the young ones.”
Having started the first two games of this campaign, Robinson then took a little time to win over current Preston manager Alex Neil but he has become a regular once again. Often deployed on the wing, he has been used in the striker’s role since Jordan Hugill’s January move to West Ham.
“With every manager I’ve had, they’ve all said it’s a joy to work with me because I can play in any of the front four positions,” he explains. “If Seani [Maguire] comes on up front, like he did the other night and against Bolton on Saturday, I can play on either wing and it doesn’t bother either of us.
“Jordan left and I’ve been playing up front lately, leading the line with Brownie as the number 10. I couldn’t really tell you which position is perfect for me but I always try to be effective — whether it’s the right, left, number 10 or striker. It’s been working well for me the last two seasons.
“I got on with Simon really well but I’m really enjoying it with Alex Neil. He gets the best out of everyone and, as you can see, we’re really developing at Preston. It’s quite a young side but we’re in and around the play-offs, which is great and he’s doing a good job.”
Currently eighth, Preston are chasing promotion to the Premier League but Robinson’s team-mates are also eager to get him involved in the Ireland set-up.
“A few of them have been on to me to do it,” he says. “They can see what I can do with them and they’re in the Ireland squads.
I’ve seen the squad today and it’s a strong one. There are a few fresh faces, which is good. I was happy to see Greg get in there because I know how hard he works. I’ve worked a lot with him down that left side and it’s a joy. He’s a really good player and I think he’s been a tad unlucky with the last few squads.
“Seani came in the summer and he’s done great, but was unfortunate with his injury. Daryl Horgan in one-v-ones is frightening and I’ve been with Brownie four years since my first loan. This is the best season I’ve ever seen him play, and he has really developed under Alex.”
Robinson has looked into obtaining an Irish passport and would need to go through the necessary paperwork, but he would undoubtedly add another option for O’Neill ahead of the summer friendlies.
The42 understands that the FAI have been tracking the player for some time and the senior management team regularly attend Preston’s games.Source: Profound Valley/YouTube