Here’s to You, Callum Robinson…


Despite spending over 10 years with Aston Villa, it certainly feels like Callum Robinson is “one of our own” here at North End. He joined Villa as a 10-year-old and went on to make numerous appearances in a Villa shirt in the Premier League reserve league and finally he managed 4 appearances in the Premier League for Villa in the 2013/14 season.

Callum first came to Lancashire in the 2014/15 season when Simon Grayson signed him on loan. He made his debut in a North End shirt as a 67th-minute substitute on September 16th in a 3-3 draw against Chesterfield. His first goal in Lilywhite came a few weeks later in a 2-0 victory over Leyton Orient and within a month of that, he had his first hat-trick in professional football in a game against Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup.

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The Early Days

Callum Jack Robinson, born February 2nd 1995 in Northampton, is a product of the Aston Villa youth academy and made his debut for the club on September 24th, 2013 in the League Cup third round, a 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. He had to wait 7 months for his next slice of the action in Villa colours and that came on April 19th in a 0-0 draw at home to Southampton.

Robinson’s next 3 appearances for Villa were all substitute appearances and they all came before the end of the 2013/14 season. Unfortunately, they all ended in defeat with Villa conceding 11 goals only scoring 1 in reply.

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The following season was when North End made their move for the attacker and he joined Simon Grayson’s promotion-chasing side on a month’s loan deal on September 16th 2014. He made his debut on the same day as a substitute against his fellow Villa loanee, Daniel Johnson. After a good initial spell with us in which he scored 5 goals in 11 league and cup appearances, Villa recalled him from his loan on November 25th, despite the loan stay being extended prior to that.

However, Robinson eventually returned to Preston on loan on the 5th of February 2015, until the end of the season. In his first season at Deepdale, he made 28 appearances and scored 7 goals in all competitions. Unfortunately, his loan spell was cut short after the 1-0 victory away at Chesterfield in the first leg of the play-off semi-final which we went on to win at Wembley to seal promotion.

On August 7th, 2015, Robinson joined Bristol City on loan for the season from Aston Villa and 4 days later he scored his first goal for the club in a 3-1 defeat to Luton Town in the League Cup. However, things didn’t pan out too well down South for Robbo and on the 2nd January 2016, he was recalled by Villa after failing to make an appearance for the Robins since October. 3 short days later, Callum was back in Lancashire having joined on loan again until the end of the 2015/16 season.

Robinson featured in 14 league games and 1 cup game before the end of the season, scoring 2 goals and picking up 2 bookings. The end of that season wasn’t much to shout for Robbo with him only being on the winning side in 4 of the 14 league games, losing 6, including a 2-0 defeat away at Peterborough in the FA Cup and drawing 5. It was enough for him to earn a contract at Deepdale, though.

He turned down the offer of a new deal from Aston Villa and signed a 3-year contract with North End and joined on July 4th, 2016.

Callum Robinson Signs for Preston

Now a North Ender

Robinson’s first full season as a Preston North End player in the 2016/17 season, was a fairly decent one, nothing outrageous but good enough. Plenty of signs to show the kind of player that he could become. He finished with 10 goals in 2,977 minutes, averaging a goal every 297.7 minutes. As I said, for his first full season at this level, not too shabby.

As the preparations for the 2017/18 season were about to begin, manager Simon Grayson left the club. As great as Larry was for North End, I think him leaving and Alex Neil coming in as his replacement is probably one of the best things that could have happened to Callum. And the club for that matter.

On paper, his second full season at North End and Alex Neil’s first as manager wasn’t as good as his first in terms of numbers. He featured for fewer minutes, 2,570 and scored 3 fewer goals than the season before, thus averaging a goal in the league every 367.1 minutes but, you could see what was coming.

A stand-out moment for me in this season was when we played away at Accrington Stanley in the League Cup first round. Yes, we lost the game 3-2 but I was treated an evening in hospitality by my father in law and we were sat right by Alex Neil in the dugout. For the 80 minutes that he was on the pitch, Robinson was the recipient of plenty of shouting from the gaffer. He was clearly telling him how he wanted him to play, the spaces he should be occupying and almost, or so it seemed, guiding him through the game. For me, that was clearly the start of Robinson’s development into the player he is today.

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The start of that season was one in which Robinson had to be patient, despite starting the first game, a 1-0 win at home against Sheffield Wednesday, the aforementioned away defeat to Accy Stanley in the League Cup and the next 2 games, away at Leeds United and away at Derby County. The following 8 games he only featured in as a substitute and I suspect this is largely down to the fact that the manager wasn’t completely satisfied that he could go out and play the way he wanted him to play.

Even when he came back into the side he was only used sparingly for 3 out of the next 4 games as he only played 257 minutes of a possible 360 minutes before he finally started getting a decent run in the side around January time. Since then for that season, he never really looked back. He had clearly found his footing and you could see what was being improved on; positional sense, movement and decision making. This season under Alex Neil was clearly a huge learning curve, not just for Robbo but also for the rest of the squad.

2018/19 and Onwards

This season started with a bang for Callum before a ball was kicked. He was given the number 7 shirt and as his initials are the same as Cristiano Ronaldo, who also wears the number 7 shirt, North End’s very own CR7 was born.

Pre-season went well too with Robinson scoring 3 goals for North End in 286 minutes of pre-season football from a possible 540, averaging a goal every 95 minutes. Now, I know what you’ll be thinking, that this was just pre-season and the goals would have been against a lesser opposition and yes, 2 of the goals were against AFC Fylde but he bagged one against a fairly strong Burnley side that featured Jack Cork, James Tarkowski, Jeff Hendrick, Tom Heaton, Dwight McNeil, and a few other familiar faces. However, as a forward, you just want to score goals, whether you’re Preston’s CR7 or Juventus’ CR7; goals are goals.

As you can see in the video below, the finish against Burnley was a tidy one at the near post, tucked neatly around the onrushing Tom Heaton. Robinson had the presence of mind to look up and pick his spot. This is, for me, a prime example of his development under Alex Neil. This is a chance that I suspect he’d have more than likely snapped at earlier in his career at North End.

His first goal of the season came in the home game against Bolton, another calm finish after taking the ball around the on-rushing Ben Alnwick and then slotting into the open net under pressure from Paweł Olkowski and Jason Lowe. This followed on from an assist against Stoke City in the 2-2 draw at home in August.

After Bolton, his next goal came in the 3-2 defeat at home to Reading in the next game. After Daniel Johnson got the first goal, one that came from a Robinson deflected shot, Robbo showed a poacher’s instinct by following in a Josh Earl shot and tapping home from a few yards out to put us back on terms with the Royals.

After a 1 game ‘goal drought’, Robinson bagged again in the game away to would be runners up, Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. Brandon Barker finds Darnell Fisher out on the right who picks out an unmarked Callum Robinson who tucks the ball away with a cool left-footed finish. This goal stood out to me for Robinson’s movement. He sets off looking like he’s going to try and run in-between the two defenders but as the ball progresses out to Fisher, Robinson pulls off of the shoulder of John Egan as Jack O’Connell gets drawn out towards the ball and finds himself with enough time and space to finish the move off.

Then came a two-game spell without a goal until local rivals, (not sure you’d call them that?) Wigan rolled into town. Robinson was at the double in this game with both goals coming in the second half to seal a 4-0 win over the Latics.

The first goal in the 51st minute was the culmination of a nice move that started with a long ball from Fisher and the Wigan clearance fell to Browne who was driving forward, he then played the ball out to Barky on the right who then found DJ in the box. With the ball at his feet, he had the calmness to find Robinson out on the left in acres of space in the box to finish neatly into the bottom corner. One of many link ups over the years between DJ and Robbo, the two former Villa youngsters.

The second goal came in the 91st minute. After the introduction of Sean Maguire, who had spent the whole of the season until this point out with a hamstring injury, North End looked like they had added impetus with him on the pitch for the final 15 minutes or so of the game. He picked up the ball down the left after a neat flick on from Alan Browne. Robinson had held back his run and peeled away from 2 of the back 3 Wigan were now playing with and then darted between them as Maguire made his way to the touchline before firing the ball in at the near post for Robinson to put past Wigan ‘keeper, Christian Walton to make it 4-0.

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After only 31 minutes against Hull in a 1-1 draw, Robinson then bagged 2 again in a 4-3 home win against Brentford. The first was an excellent finish after he received the ball in from DJ, it fizzed up and he fired into the bottom with an excellent volley. His second started with Nmecha playing the ball onto DJ who moved forward with the ball and then found Robinson in space on the left side of the box and on his back foot, slotted past Daniel Bentley.

In the next game against Rotherham, he bagged an assist and could have also had a goal after a neatly worked 1-2 with Alan Browne only for it to be ruled out (correctly I think), for offside.

He then drew a blank against Ipswich away from home before scoring in back to back games against Bristol City, securing a 1-0 win tapping into an empty net after another ball from Daniel Johnson found him unmarked on the left side of the box. The next and final goal of 2018 for Callum came at home in the 4-1 win against Rovers. An excellent ball through from Alan Browne found Robinson on the overlap and running in behind Ryan Nyambe and a fine left-footed finish from Robinson had us 2-0 up in what would eventually turn out to be a convincing 4-1 victory over Rovers.

Unfortunately for us, this was Robinson’s first game back after being away with the Republic of Ireland international side and Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane apparently used to work the Ireland squad hard in their training camps. It was around the 60-minute mark when Robinson’s hamstring went and that led to him being out for a good 3 and a bit months.

Post Injury

Callum made his comeback this season in the home game against Birmingham City which was won 1-0 thanks to a last-minute header from Sean Maguire to send us level on points with Aston Villa in 6th, behind only on goal difference. Unfortunately, our form took a nosedive from there on in for the most part but, Robinson quickly found his feet again.

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From a potential 810 minutes available to him, Callum played 549 minutes and contributed to a goal every 137.3 minutes, scoring 3 and assisting 1. A pretty good return from someone who had been out for almost 4 months, wouldn’t you say?

The standout for Robinson came in the 4-0 home win against. He was at the double for the third time this season with 2 goals coming inside 18 minutes and with two fine finishes. The first came after a nice pass into his feet from Ryan Ledson, Robinson opened up his body, controlled the ball nicely and set himself up perfectly to finish from 20-yards out with a fine curled effort past the Ipswich goalkeeper, Bartosz Białkowski.

The second goal, his last of the season came after a cross from Joe Rafferty found its way to Robbo who was, again, in acres of space on that left side of the box, he controlled the ball neatly on his knee and finished with another fine strike into the top corner of Białkowski’s net. For the most part, a fairly successful return from injury I would say.

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If This is the End

If this is the end, let the record state that you’ll be missed. Seeing the development over the years and his progression has been excellent. He’s had his ups and downs which is only natural for all players at times in their careers but Callum joined as a boy and he’s now, absolutely, a man.

His half space movement has improved no end and positionally, he’s excellent. That’s been evident in a number of the goals he’s scored this season. Many of his goals have come because he’s been in the right place at the right time and that’s not just coincidence, he reads the game so well and the runs he makes to move defenders around have improved massively under Alex Neil.

Not only this but his technique is up there too. His 2 finishes in the game against Ipswich and the volley against Brentford show just how good his technique actually is.

I would love to see him stay at the club and continue his development under the gaffer and with the likes of Alan Browne, Ben Pearson and Ben Davies all around him, who are all only going to improve, he’s only going to continue to improve too.

Finally, Callum’s a credit to his the staff at the club, his friends, his family and most importantly, himself. He’s always got a smile on his face, is always interacting with the fans and he just seems to be genuinely happy at the club.

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Whoever he ends up playing for, either in the near future or further down the line, whether that be us or another club are very lucky to have him and have a genuinely quality player on their hands. I just hope that continues to be Preston North End Football Club for the foreseeable future.