Robinson happy to play part in North End's emerging squad
Callum Robinson is looking at the bigger picture when it comes to his limited game-time this season.
The versatile Preston forward made a major breakthrough in the previous campaign with 11 goals as he played in a variety of attacking positions.
The subject of a rejected bid from Derby during the transfer window, the 22-year-old is seen of one of the prize assets at Deepdale.
But life under Alex Neil has been far from straightforward for the former Aston Villa youngster.
Robinson started the first three games of the season.
But the 23 minutes he got against Hull on Tuesday night, culminating in nodding in a dramatic winning goal, was the most action he had seen since playing the first hour of the defeat at Derby County back on August 15.
But with PNE making an impressive start, fifth in the Championship ahead of hosting Sunderland on Saturday, Robinson insists he is content to play whatever part he can as he fights for a regular starting spot.
“The first three games went by and we lost against Derby away and then the gaffer pulled me out,” he said.
“We’ve got a strong squad though and if we’re going to get promoted this year then we’re going to need it. We’ve got a very good 22 or 25 and there’s no slacking, we’re all training hard.
“If you’re a sub or whatever you’ve got to make sure you’re working hard in training.
“Sometimes it’s hard mentally and you can struggle but you’ve got to get through it and try and come out the other side.
“For a player personally it’s obviously annoying if you’re not involved but the lads have been doing great and when your chance comes you’ve got to make sure you take it.
“I feel like I’m ready to push on.
“The manager sees me day in and day out and I’ve just got to make sure that I’m training right and when I do get my opportunities that I do things right on the pitch and work hard for the team. That’s the main thing.”
Robinson tried to do just that when he headed in Daryl Horgan’s cross with two minutes to play at the KCOM Stadium to seal a 2-1 victory that sent the 1,400 travelling fans into raptures.
“It was obviously really nice to get my first goal of the season,” he said.
“It was a very important goal for the team as well to get three points away at Hull.
“It was a big gamble for the manager to change things how he did.
“But he trusts all the squad so me and Josh Harrop came on and then Daryl did at the end.
“It shows how far we’ve come that we want to win these games now.”
Neil admitted post-match he thought Horgan might have taken the wrong option as he drove down the right-hand side of the area before standing up a cross to the back post.
It paid off though, Robinson adding another headed goal to his tally, something he has done plenty of work on over the last year.
“There was me, Sean Maguire and Josh who could have been rolled in earlier,” he said.
“It would have been a one-on-one but Dazza did great to get down the line and cut out the ‘keeper and it was an easy tap in really.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the best at heading and all the practice I did last year was a bit of a joke.
“I used to stay out and practice after training quite a bit. Even on Monday morning Dazza was putting a few balls in and I was just hanging around the box and making movements here and there.
It was just great to get the goal.”
The victory kept up a fine opening couple of months of the season, Neil’s men having picked up 19 points from 10 tough opening games to make some stand up and take note of the young, emerging side at Deepdale.
“It’s been a really good start, the squad and the lads who have been involved have been excellent,” said Robinson.
“There have been plenty of goals and the lads at the back haven’t conceded many so we’re doing really well. We can’t relax though, we want to keep it going through the whole season.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and we move onto Sunderland now.”
The visit of the Black Cats to Deepdale means a swift reunion with former PNE boss Simon Grayson who gave Robinson his breakthrough in senior football.
The winger or striker was signed on loan from Villa Park three times before Grayson made him a permanent fixture at Deepdale in the summer of 2016.
“It will be a little bit strange to see him,” said Robinson. “He was here a long time but it’s football.
“He helped me and got me my first-team appearances which was what I needed when I came on loan from Aston Villa.
“He was a massive part of my development from League One through to the Championship and beyond.
“He came in for me a few times and I’m pleased he did. I do owe him. Every lad needs a chance and I’m grateful he gave me that here.”
On the field, Grayson is in desperate need of a victory as he returns to his home of just over four years.
He has enjoyed a torrid start to life as Sunderland manager, seven Championship games without a win leaving his side second from bottom ahead of their trip to Lancashire on Saturday.
That culminated in a 5-2 humbling at Ipswich on Tuesday night that piled on the pressure, Grayson looking to revive the fortunes of a side relegated from the Premier League last year.
“They obviously aren’t doing the best,” said Robinson. “But they’ve got some quality players and you’ve just got to be aware of Aiden McGeady and players like that.
“It should be good though.
“I feel like with what we’ve got now we need to go into the game confident.
“We are doing better than them at the moment and we’ll be looking to win the game.”