Callum Wilson’s first ruptured ACL came just five goals into his debut Premier League season. Having spent his late teens at the likes of Kettering Town and Tamworth, the 26-year-old had broken into England’s U21 set-up and was desperate to return to the top-tier pitches as soon as possible.
But having done so ahead of schedule, the shocks, springs and suspension of Wilson’s chassis had yet to truly recover. His runs veered subtly to the left to accommodate his wounded knee, his once sports car like acceleration was noticeably more clunky.
He was dropped, Bournemouth brought in Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban, and if the Coventry-born striker hadn’t signed to the club on a four-year contract his career on the South coast may well have come to a premature end.
And then, just after he had finally started to regain steady footing in the side, Wilson suffered the same ACL injury to his other knee. On the way back from the scan, he hurled punches into the dashboard in response to the one-two he’d suffered himself and as he got home he hurled his keys through a window frame before curling on to his bed in tears.
But now, those memories seem a far cry away from that. Wilson has not only started every game for Eddie Howe’s side but become the Premier League’s most prolific English striker. On goalscoring par with Harry Kane and out-assisting Raheem Sterling, Howe believes now “it’s only a matter of time” until Wilson wins his first senior call-up to the England side.
“He’s certainly going to be in Gareth’s mind, I’ve got no doubt about that,” Howe said. “Callum has just got to keep doing what he’s doing and if he continues to score and do well then I think it will only be a matter of time so the responsibility really is with Callum just to take care of his form for us.”
It’s not only Anglo-attackers who Wilson is currently outclassing. He has in fact contributed more this season so far – five goals and four assists – than Romelu Lukaku, Mo Salah and Alexandre Lacazette.
Obviously, it would be absurd to put Wilson on that pedestal but he is the type of gritty and endearing player who Southgate may be willing to offer opportunity as he ushers new faces into the international side and there’s no reason why Wilson couldn’t become successor to the recently-retired Jamie Vardy if he were to sustain his current form.
Thriving off a telepathic connection to Scottish winger Ryan Fraser, Wilson scored his side's first goal from the spot on Saturday, helped to set up Brooks' second and exhibited his revamped horsepower in scoring Bournemouth’s third.
Howe was quick to praise the striker’s predatorial instincts with the Coventry-born striker now having near to double the number of shots as any of his teammates this season, even if he is prone to the occasional misfire.
“I think in every game he’s had chances and that’s what is so likeable about Callum from my perspective,” he said. “He wants to score and his movements very good. He’s very unselfish as well and plays for the team. When he got his moments today he was very efficient.”
“When he’s in a good frame of mind he’ll take those chances that come his way. He’s a big player for the team and we certainly need our strikers to score goals so it’s a big day for him.”
The Cherries are now enjoying their best top-flight run in history and are just six points behind leaders Manchester City. And, next month they welcome the champions to the Vitality Stadium, as well as Manchester United and Arsenal, and the Bournemouth boss believes his side are now best placed to take on the league’s upper-tier teams.
“We’re in a good place to take those games on now. The players will be very confident, the supporters will be in a good frame of mind so I think whenever you play these teams I think you’ve just got to go out and enjoy it.
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