PNE's Robinson enjoying life after Villa
Aston Villa was his life but now Callum Robinson is hoping to help Preston North End sink the Birmingham giants.
The in-form forward made his Deepdale loan move permanent in the summer, leaving a club he had joined at the age of eight.
Robinson admits it was a real wrench to turn down Villa’s offer of a new contract but is confident he made the right move ahead of the meeting between the two sides on Saturday.
“It was massive,” said the 21-year-old, who made four Premier League appearances in claret and blue.
“I’d been there since I was eight and they offered me a deal. I just thought it was the right time to get out there and show people what I can do and get more game-time.
“It’s really hard to turn something down at a club like Aston Villa – it wasn’t like I got released.
“You’re comfortable there, you know all the players, all the staff and the people there to help you.
“It’s easy for young players to stay around sometimes and be on the bench but I wanted to get out there.
“It was hard but I think it was the right decision.”
Having gone from boy to man at Villa Park, Robinson admits the prospect of playing against the Villans is something that is difficult to get his head around, especially given their traditional position as one of the Premier League’s mainstays.
“I would never have thought it,” he said.
“Even if I was to go lower down the divisions you wouldn’t have thought Villa would have been there.
“From eight I’ve been there and I’ve never known anything else.
“It’s going to be a really big one for me.”
After a 2-2 draw against Villa’s cross-city rivals Birmingham on Tuesday night the game on Saturday will complete a big week for Robinson and Preston.
When the fixtures came out PNE would have been forgiven for thinking they would be hosting a side flying high as they look to make an immediate return to the top flight.
Robert Di Matteo is already under pressure however, with Villa two places above PNE in 17th with the same return of 10 points from 10 games.
“It’s the first fixture I looked for when I signed,” said Robinson. “I’m really looking forward to it.
“It was always going to be a big week, with Blues and Villa, they’re two massive games for me personally and for the team as well.
“They’ve just come down, they’re going to be a tough team to try and get a win against.
“Villa are one of the favourites from the start of the season but they’re not doing that great.
“They’ve drawn their last five and it might be a good time to get them.”
Robinson, who will be joined by another former Villa man in Daniel Johnson on Saturday, will have plenty of friends in the away dressing room – none more so that Jack Grealish, the promising midfielder having courted controversy again in the last week.
The England Under-21s star, no stranger to newspaper headlines, has been fined by the club after police were called to a rowdy party at a Birmingham hotel.
Robinson has backed his good mate to fulfil his undoubted potential, however.
“Me and Jack Grealish grew up together really,” he said. “We speak almost every day but now we’re going to be playing against each other.
“He’s had a few little problems off the field but it happens – he’s young, he’ll learn.
“Jack’s a great footballer at the end of the day and he knows what he needs to do to be the best he can.
“I’ve got friends there but when the 90 minutes are being played I want to win, I’ve got to act professionally.”
Despite having spent three loan spells at Deepdale before putting pen to paper on a three-year contract last summer, Robinson says he now really feels like he really belongs at Preston.
“I feel like I’m definitely a part of it. When I was here on loan I was part of it but for the players, I wasn’t one of them really.
“I think I feel really a part of it and I want to do well for the club and get results – not like I wouldn’t before but I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d be going back to Villa.
“I think it’s been a really good move for me so far.
“Things can change quickly obviously but I’m really happy with my football at the moment.”
It is clear to see how much he is enjoying his football, Robinson having been one of PNE’s key men this season, giving Grayson some pace and trickery across the front line.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I’m getting my game-time and I’m doing my job and affecting the games I think.
“I’m being as positive as I can when I get the ball and working hard for the team. My stats are really high every game, I check them, I’ve been running about a bit! I’m just trying to get assists and goals and do all I can to stay in the team because there’s a lot of competition in my position.”