Tuesday 17 September 2019

Callum Wilson ready to fulfil childhood dream at Wembley

England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed Wilson would play a part at Wembley.

Callum Wilson is determined to take his chance with England (John Walton/PA)
Callum Wilson is determined to take his chance with England (John Walton/PA)

By Simon Peach, Press Association Chief Football Writer

Callum Wilson grew up playing a game called “Wembley” with his friends using the garages next to his house.

Now the striker is set to step out at the national stadium for the first time and fulfil his childhood dreams of playing for England.

The 26-year-old Bournemouth frontman is the latest player to be rewarded by Gareth Southgate for impressing on the path less travelled, having spent time on loan at non-league Kettering and Tamworth before making his mark at hometown club Coventry.

Wilson moved onto Bournemouth in 2014 and helped fire them from the Sky Bet Championship into the Premier League, where Eddie Howe’s men currently find themselves riding high in sixth.

That ascent will continue on Thursday, with the uncapped striker vying for a starting berth in the friendly against the United States on a night that will see England pay homage to Wayne Rooney.

“It would be a dream come true,” Wilson said.

“There’s no guarantees I will get on, but I’ve still got probably 15-20 people from my family and friends coming to the game to watch, and it just shows for me what they want for me, what I want for myself, really.

“If it doesn’t happen, I’ll keep working hard. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. I’ll be making sure I’m working hard, doing everything I can possible to get that.”

Southgate confirmed Wilson would play a part at Wembley, where he always dreamed of starring but has yet to step out as a player.

Callum Wilson will play a part against the US, Gareth Southgate has said (Nick Potts/PA)

“As a youngster, when you’re playing around with your friends, you’re always re-enacting that you’re playing at Wembley, things like that,” he said.

“We used to call it ‘Wembley’, the game, it was 1 v 1, where you would try, and score and you got through to the next round.

“So, I would always be myself, really, trying to be at Wembley, and hoping one day it would happen.

“It was just in the garages in the house where I grew up. The streets.”

Wilson’s only trip to Wembley to date was watching boyhood club Coventry lifting last year’s Checkatrade Trophy, making Thursday a memorable moment in his remarkable comeback story.

Not only did he rupture the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in September 2015, but 16 months later he suffered a rupture in his left.

“It is like anything in life – if it is worth fighting for, you are going to have to go through some tough times to get there,” Wilson said, stoically. “It’s the same for me, really.

“Yeah, I’ve had a few setbacks, but it just makes you stronger and makes you appreciate things more.

“When you get here now, you appreciate it a lot because of what you’ve done in the past.”

Callum Wilson has suffered two serious knee injuries on his way to being called up to the England squad (Nigel French/PA)

Wilson spoke in great detail about the rehabilitation process, along with the lessons learned from rushing back from the first ACL injury.

The Bournemouth striker also shed light on the commitment it took to get to the brink of representing his country.

“I actually missed the birth of my second child being out (of the country) doing rehab, so that’s the sort of sacrifices I made to get to this point,” Wilson said.

The striker is quietly confident about his ability to now shine for England, unlike his time with Southgate’s Under-21s.

Callum Wilson feels like he belongs in the England squad (Mark Kerton/PA)

“He gave me an opportunity at that level, a lot has happened since then and I think as you get older you appreciate more getting recognition for England,” reported Chelsea target Wilson said.

“When I was younger, got called up for the Under-21s, a lot of players in that squad were playing in the Premier League and I was in the Championship at the time.

“You felt like you’re here and they are there sort of thing.

“I suppose I didn’t appreciate it, I didn’t feel like I was meant to be there then whereas now I think my performances in the Premier League have shown that I am able to be here.”

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