Callum Robinson exclusive column: Preston star grateful to Martin O’Neill for giving him his international chance

Republic of Ireland's Callum Robinson shields the ball from Northern Ireland's Steven Davis
Republic of Ireland's Callum Robinson shields the ball from Northern Ireland's Steven Davis

The news Martin O’Neill had left his job as Republic of Ireland manager was upsetting as it was him and Roy Keane who gave me my international chance.

Him and Roy have always been very positive with me both on and off the pitch, so I owe them so much.

Martin has been at the top level of the game for such a long time that the respect level for him is so high.

When I was growing up, Roy was a top player and someone I watched a lot.

So to see them both go is gutting personally and I wish them well.

Earlier in my career I had worked with Roy when he was Paul Lambert’s assistant at Aston Villa.

I was training with the first-team squad at the time but was in-and-out of the matchday squad.

That is when Roy first got to see me play and he was later – along with Martin – to give me my chance to play international football.

I’d like to thank them both for that as much as possible.

If I’m in any of the future squads, that will be down to them in many ways because they gave me my chance.

In September they showed a lot of faith in me by putting me in for my debut after only three days training with the lads.

It was a start too, not just a case of being on the bench.

People have asked me about Roy and what is like to work with.

I’ve got to say that I got on really well with him, I think he liked my cheekiness around the place.

Some people say that he is ‘Mr Angry’ but he is honestly not like that all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, he will be angry at times when he needs to be.

But the majority of the time he is fun to be around and enjoys the training camps as much as any of the players.

I now have six caps to my name having started the friendly against Northern Ireland last week and then come on as a substitute in Denmark on Monday.

To have got six caps in the last two months is brilliant personally but obviously the results haven’t been great.

I do enjoy going away with Ireland and everything that goes with it.

At the end of the day it is football, it is what I do.

You play with some really good players, some of who are in the Premier League.

I try not to let it faze me, it doesn’t matter what ground it is and the level of the team you are playing against.

Going away with Ireland, it is good to have a change of environment.

It is quite intense when you are there because you have 10 days together and no days off.

Saying that, it is always great to come back here to Preston and see the lads again.

I can bring the experience which I have gained playing with Ireland back to my club form.

Looking back on my six international caps, I would definitely say that my debut against Wales stands-out.

All my family were in the crowd and to be stood there on the pitch so soon after joining the squad was almost surreal.

It meant a lot to my family, my mum and dad were there and some of my friends.

The focus is now on our derby game with Blackburn at Deepdale on Saturday.

I’m really looking forward to it and when I was away with Ireland, I had a bit of banter with Rovers’ Darragh Lenihan.

There should be a really good atmosphere and I love being involved in games like this.

The last time we played Blackburn at Deepdale, I scored the winner which was a special moment.

Greg Cunningham put over a great ball from the left and I tucked it away into the bottom corner – I remember Ben Pringle chasing after me to celebrate!

This is a really crucial week for us and if we could start off with a win against Blackburn, that would be a massive result for us.

It is then Middlesbrough here and Birmingham away, both huge games.

If we have a good week of results, we can really jump up that table.

Unfortunately we have injuries to Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire to contend with.

They were players who both started our victory at Bristol City before the break, while DJ has started the last five or six games during our good run.

DJ has to see a specialist and Seani broke down with his hamstring.

When I saw Seani pull up I was gutted for him because I know how hard he works.

He had come on for me in last week’s game and had been looking forward to it.

I went to see him in the dressing room and Seani was understandably really upset.