In-form Robinson ready to lead the line for Ireland 10 months ago

In-form Robinson ready to lead the line for Ireland

Brought to you by SPAR, a proud partner of the FAI.

We’re not quite into the do-or-die stage of the Euro 2020 Qualifiers, but Thursday’s result will tell us a lot about whether this team will be doing or dying in a couple of months’ time.

The Group D table is glowingly positive, but very misleading. Ireland were given a massive headstart when the fixtures robot dealt Gibraltar twice in the opening four games. We still need to face Georgia away from home for the 467th time this decade, welcome the Danes back to the scene of the November 2017 massacre and face top seeds Switzerland twice, beginning with Thursday’s visit to the Aviva Stadium. Callum Robinson has shown he is ready to step up to that challenge. It’s been a turbulent time for the FAI, top of the news cycle for all the wrong reasons in the past few months, but Mick McCarthy seems to be leading a quiet, tentative revolution in the background. There’s a marked difference in rhetoric, body language and aspirations. Form is being rewarded. Football is being encouraged. No one embodies that more than Callum Robinson.

There’s an air of cool confidence to the Sheffield United striker when we meet him in the team hotel in Castleknock, arriving into camp fresh from his first Premier League goal against Chelsea at the weekend. The Blades battled from two down to rescue a point in London, with Robinson’s strike coming just after half-time and sparking the revival. While it’s a monkey off the 24-year old’s back, it wasn’t weighing too heavily on the young striker;

“Yeah definitely, I think that's obviously been in my head," Robinson was speaking at the SPAR and FAI partnership. "But three games in the Premier League without a goal, a lot of players, a lot of top players, have done that so I wasn't down in confidence or anything. For any boy, playing football from a young age, that's a dream come true, so it was a real big moment for me and I was really happy with it.”

There was even better news for Irish fans catching up with the action, as Robinson’s goal was set up by compatriot Enda Stevens, who starred in the shock draw. John Egan and David McGoldrick also join the pair in a sizeable Irish contingent at Bramall Lane, and Robinson says having that connection there has made all the difference since arriving;

“Yeah I think it's helped massively. I think even just going into a new dressing room for anybody obviously takes a couple of weeks or months to get used to everyone and get to know everyone. But it's helped me that I knew three of the boys, they had told me how good it was in that changing room and now I'm happy to be a part of it.”

With 29 goals in 110 appearances for Preston, Robinson’s rate is eerily similar to fellow Irish striker Seán Maguire (14 goals in 53 outings), but Ireland are without the former Cork City man’s services this weekend after a freak eye injury saw him taken out of the squad over the weekend. Surprisingly, former poster boy and great white hope for Irish goal-getting Shane Long was not even called up as his replacement, McCarthy opting instead for Luton Town striker James Collins.

McCarthy has been clear on this, notably around Tottenham starlet Troy Parrott, that minutes played is key to squad selection, almost regardless of the league that it comes in. Robinson believes McCarthy’s insistence on rewarding those playing games is working;

“I think that makes you a better player, because there's always competition. And you know you always have to be on your A game, want to get into your club football, get into the starting 11 because there's always competition at club level. And then there's always massive competition here as well, so you always want to bring your A game to every game and if you're in form then you’ve got to try stay in form as long as you can to keep getting picked. For me, personally, I just try to work 100% in training and get myself into a starting 11 for Sheffield United and then it goes from there to hopefully having the opportunity to play for Ireland on Thursday and Tuesday.”

It's a refreshing approach, and you get the impression that McCarthy has restored a certain pride in the jersey, a sense of fun in the camp and Robinson’s demeanour backs that up.

SPAR has teamed up with the Ireland team to offer four children a chance to meet their Ireland heroes.

Without digging too hard into the ever-deep Irish football cliché bucket, Robinson simply seems ready to lead the line against the Swiss on Thursday;

“You're doing it for the country, and that's straight away pressure. But I always grew up with people saying 'pressure is a privilege', that's what I got told as a kid and you just have to embrace it, enjoy it and get the result that everyone wants and you'll be loved and happy for the whole country.”

Result = love = happiness? We’ll see when the Swiss roll into town on Thursday.

Play like a Pro! SPAR has teamed up with the Republic of Ireland senior international team to offer four lucky school children, and four of their closest friends, the opportunity to take part in a training session and meet some of their Ireland heroes. The lucky winners will be brought to the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown in November and will have the chance to meet some of their heroes from the Republic of Ireland for more information. T&C’s apply.