He’s gone. It was expected. Trevor Hemmings makes a few million. And the club is once again divided. But what must happen next for Preston North End post-Callum Robinson?
Callum Robinson was and still is a player held in high regard by most at Preston.
I mean, he is just such a likeable character, always wearing a cheeky grin on his face and always willing to interact with the fans.
He’s a pretty decent footballer too, although the persistent glove wearing was, erm, questionable.
After joining the club on loan in 2014, Robinson had several temporary spells in Lancashire, before eventually joining on a permanent deal in 2016.
Robinson signed for Preston at the age of 19 and he departs at the age of 24, but in those 5 years, the Villa youth product has developed from a fresh-faced teenager with raw quality but little end product, into a versatile winger with positional nous and the ability to score a range of goals.
And as he approaches his prime years, Sheffield United have purchased the Irish international at the perfect time for a snip at £8 million.
Even though Sheffield United’s 3-5-2 system requires the wide men to operate as wing backs who provide defensive cover for the overlapping defenders, Callum Robinson, with the right coaching, will be able to adapt to Wilder’s niche system.
As I said, he is a versatile forward and this is something that has been improved immensely by Alex Neil.
Under Neil, the three attacking midfielders have got to be able to adapt to playing anywhere in the final third.
While Callum Robinson was often positioned on the left wing, he was also used as the sole forward and throughout games Alex Neil would frequently require him to switch to the right side of the pitch.
Now, last season, Sheffield United regularly used a front two, and Robinson may well find himself used as the left striker alongside, say, Billy Sharp.
A couple of years ago, I would’ve berated a decision to persistently play Robinson as a striker, but now, it makes sense.
One of my biggest criticisms of Robinson in his early days was his finishing ability.
In the 2017-18 season, Robinson scored 7 goals in 2,563 minutes of football. An average of one goal every four games. But only 48% of his shots were on target.
Whereas in the 2018-19 season, Robinson scored, on average, one goal every 157 minutes, a better record than Che Adams, Oli McBurnie and Jay Rodriguez – who are all strikers. Also, 60% of his shots were on target, a marked improvement.
Callum has become deadly in front of goal and while the majority of his goals two seasons ago were with his head, last season he scored a range of goals, from outside of the box drives to cute finishes using either his left or right foot.
Put it this way, Sheffield United have a lot to look forward to.
But what next for Preston?
I mean, it would be reasonable to expect the club to re-invest in a quality replacement.
After all, Alex Neil signed his contract in April with certain assurances over players.
And even though we have lost Robinson, there is a slither of hope that we might just see a portion of the profit pledged towards a Robinson replacement.
Jamal Lowe would be my pick at a price in the region of £3 million and this would be a real statement of intent – a signing to boost the feeling among the fans.
If the club fail to invest in a serious replacement, then they will only increase supporter resentment at a time when we have a genuine opportunity to push for promotion.
With FFP restrictions holding many Championship teams back, Preston have a window of opportunity to take advantage and bring in a couple of quality recruits.
But with all that being said, this is Preston North End we’re talking about. We all know Uncle Trevor prefers to spend his coin on animals with four legs over those with two, so I certainly won’t be holding my breath this summer.
Whatever happens, we will all see how serious the club really are about backing the man at the helm.