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Callum Robinson kicks on again after storm over his vaccine status

Republic of Ireland striker Callum Robinson did his talking on the pitch (Brian Lawless/PA)

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Ireland striker Callum Robinson says he refused to let the storm over his admission last year that he refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19 distract him from his job.

But the West Brom forward, who spoke for the first time on the issue since he made headlines across the globe last year over his vaccination stance, has declined to say if he has since been jabbed.

Robinson was thrust into the eye of a media storm last October when, speaking ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan, he admitted he had refused to be vaccinated, even though he had contracted the virus twice and had missed out on caps as a consequence while the general public had to show proof of vaccination before they could enter Azerbaijan.

Speaking after a training session at FAI HQ yesterday, Robinson says he was taken aback by the level of interest in his story but insists that his experience taught him how to cope with the spotlight.

“Nothing really bothers me really, when you have been in the game for such a long time, I have played since I was 18, maybe at the start you overthink stuff but the more games you play, the more teams you play for, the more experience it is and that doesn’t affect or bother me,” Robinson said, later batting away a question about his current vaccination status.

“I have the best job in the world, I play football every day, I smile every day, I am grateful, so to have stuff like that put me down, that would never happen.

“It surprised me a little bit because I didn’t think it was going to blow up like that, I didn’t expect that but yeah, it didn’t affect me or scare me or anything like that.

“You sit here and you know that stuff is going to go worldwide or this country or that country. You know that whatever you say could go around the world but I didn’t expect it to be such a big thing.

“I just said what I said and said I wanted to show people what I do on the pitch instead of what I do off it. That’s what I get paid for, not off it, and I just tried to do the best I could on that Saturday and Tuesday.

“It didn’t change my attitude. When I go on to the pitch I always want to produce, if you are going to time it, I timed it perfectly, I was happy with that. The main thing was to help the boys get the result, in my position that’s goals and assists, being creative, and I am just happy with the timing.

“It happened after that week and them two games to produce for the boys, I’ve hopefully carried that on in other games, big games since then, that’s my main aim at the end of it all.”

His stance on the Covid issue led to criticism from many, and also online support, particularly from those in the USA who knew little about the travails of West Bromwich Albion FC in England’s second tier but were happy to see an athlete with a public profile refuse to take the vaccination.

Robinson’s international career has not suffered, and if anything he has moved up the pecking order with Ireland since the Covid saga broke, but his club form is more of a puzzle.

He scored just two goals in 21 games for the Baggies in the second half of the season, a poor return from him and a poor season for the team overall. His initial focus is on a strong finish to the international season and then a strong pre-season with his club.

“We definitely are going into the four games confident and we know these four games are massive, they could go a long way towards helping us to get to a tournament and that’s what I think this group can achieve,” he says.

“As far as I know I am part of his [Steve Bruce] plans, until he tells me any different. It wasn’t the best of seasons, as we all know, we need a reset, we need a good pre-season in Portugal, get ourselves fit.”

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