THE beaming smile spread across Callum Robinson’s face last week as he was introduced to the 1,000 or so travelling fans who had followed Sheffield United to Portugal spoke volumes.
His delight at joining the Blades’ Premier League adventure was clear. So, too, was the Republic of Ireland international’s pride at becoming the club’s new record signing following the £7m switch from Preston North End.
Four days on from usurping Luke Freeman in the Bramall Lane record books, Robinson made his United bow on Tuesday night in the 2-1 friendly defeat to Burton Albion.
It was an encouraging debut, Robinson looking dangerous throughout his late 15-minute cameo after replacing goalscorer Billy Sharp. John Brayford, once of United, and Marcus Harness with a last minute screamer won the game for Nigel Clough’s side.
“I am ready for it,” said Robinson to The Yorkshire Post about his impending step up to the Premier League.
“I am 24 and it is the right time to challenge myself.
“I feel the Premier League is where I need to be, considering my age and my development.
“I feel it is the right time and I feel I have the right manager around me. This is the right club for me.”
Chris Wilder, the manager who helped realise Robinson’s top flight dream, is certainly delighted to have the former Aston Villa trainee on board.
The Irish international’s versatility – he filled several attacking roles at Deepdale – will be a useful weapon in the top flight, as will his pace.
United, of course, want more signings after making one-time Manchester United starlket Ravel Morrison their fourth addition of the summer yesterday. A £15m bid for Ollie McBurnie is understood to have been rejected by Swansea City, while Brentford’s Neal Maupay remains on the radar.
It suggests Robinson’s tenure as the club record signing may be as short-lived as that of Freeman, who joined for £5m from Queens Park Rangers.
“He has not said anything, no,” laughed Robinson when asked if Freeman had complained about being dislodged after just nine days as the record signing.
“Seriously, I did not realise when the chance first came up (to join the Blades) that I could be the record signing. Then, someone told me and it was a proud moment when the transfer went through.
“You graft from seven or eight years old to get to this point, where I am standing here as a club record signing and a Premier League player. It really could not have been a better feeling.
“It might only last a week. Who knows? But I am hanging on to it at the moment. Even if it had been just 24 hours, I would have been massively proud. Just to have that (tag) once in my career is fantastic.”
Robinson started out at Villa Park as an apprentice alongside Jack Grealish. The pair are still friends and went on holiday together this summer.
The Northampton-born forward made four appearances from the bench in the Premier League, all towards the end of the 2013-14 campaign. He then embarked on the first of three loan spells at Preston before finally making the move permanent for £170,000 three summers ago.
Since then, Robinson has blossomed into one of the Championship’s more dangerous attackers. Often deployed by Alex Neil out wide in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he netted 29 goals in 88 league starts for North End after joining the club on a permanent basis.
“I played against Sheffield United for the past two years,” added the forward, who already knew Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick and John Egan through the Irish international set-up.
“They are a real good team. The gaffer has them working so hard, especially tactically.
“I am so excited to be part of it. They are a real good team with pace and strength, plus good footballers.
“I feel ready. Going away to play international football has helped me. It has given me belief. I know now I can play at the top against the top players.
“That has helped me so much. On top of that, I knew a few of the lads already. That always helps a footballer settle in at a new club.”
Robinson, whose last Premier League outing came for Villa in a 3-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the 2013-14 season, added: “I want to express myself at the top level.
“There are some really good footballers here. Playing at the top with those players is only going to help me become a better player.
“This is a great time to get involved with a club like Sheffield United. You do have that excitement at being in the Premier League.
“Most of the lads have not played at that level before. It is going to be a really big test for us. Most of all, though, we must enjoy it and make sure we believe in ourselves. I really do feel we have a chance to make this a good season for Sheffield United.”