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Portadown man Darren Robinson (17) makes debut on Wayne Rooney’s Derby County squad

Portadown lad Darren Robinson has just turned 17 but already he is making the senior team at Derby County and has been selected for the NI under 19 squad.

Midfielder Darren was snapped up by Wayne Rooney’s Derby County last summer aged just 16 as a first-year scholar.

He had moved to Derby County’s Moor Farm Training Academy from Dungannon Swifts where he made his senior debut last season against Glenavon in the NI Football League Premiership.

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And, not even a year later, the now 17-year-old, who was on the Derby County substitutes bench in last weekend’s game with Bristol City, came on for his debut after 82 minutes.

Portadown man Darren Robinson (17) makes his debut with Derby County against Bristol City last Saturday April 23, 2022.

The son of Malcolm and Zelda Robinson, Darren’s family are well known in football circles.

His former principal at Orchard County Primary School Stephen Blevins, is full of praise for the young man.

“He has always shown a lot of promise. He played for Portadown Youth for a spell and then Dungannon Swifts. Obviously the Derby County manager is Wayne Rooney. So that makes it extra special as such a well known football superstar has given Darren his debut at 17.

“Considering the uniqueness of getting a senior debut with Derby County in the Championship at 17 years of age, he is a very humble young man. His feet are firmly on the ground but really determined, really focussed on trying to make a success of the opportunity he has. I was really impressed with the conversations with him.

Derby County player Darren Robinson with his former teacher Stephen Blevins and team mates from Orchard County Primary School in Portadown.

“In June last year I had a message that Darren was trying to get in touch with me to let me know he had signed for Derby County. I spoke to him on the phone for about 30 minutes soon after and he talked me through the process.

“He had been at Dungannon Swifts towards the end of last season and, at the age of 16, he transferred to Derby in the summer,” said Stephen, adding that Darren has kept in touch on his progress.

Stephen said he was lucky enough to go across and watch Darren, who is now aged 17, playing for the Derby County Under 23 team against Leicester City on Good Friday at King Power Stadium. I watched that game and then Darren joined me and we watched the Derby County first team who played against Fulham that night. It was great to catch up with him and just to get a chance to watch him play at a high level was great.”

Stephen said Darren had been hopeful to get into the first team squad and then last Saturday he made his debut in a game against Bristol City with 17 minutes to go.

Portadown man Darren Robinson (17) makes his debut with Derby County against Bristol City last Saturday April 23, 2022.

“That is a pretty special achievement for a 17 year old. He also made his Northern Ireland Under 19 debut as well and they handed him the captain’s armband. He has obviously got a lot of potential this guy.

“I have worked with football teams all my life and it is very rare for one to be this successful. I take great pleasure in that but it is secondary to the fact that 16 year old former pupil is still interested enough to lift the phone and have a conversation with his former teacher and keep him posted on the progress he’s making. That’s even more unique in many ways

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