CRAIG HOPE: Callum Wilson would LOVE to be England’s leading man – his confidence makes him the perfect go-to man in this World Cup setting and he will NOT be intimidated if he has to replace Harry Kane
If Callum Wilson had marked Sunday, November 13 as ‘Pack for Qatar’ in his diary at the start of this season, he would probably have marked ‘Start against USA’ on Friday, November 25.
Not because he predicted an injury to Harry Kane, more so because he props himself up to beat, which to others at least seems like an insurmountable opportunity.
While recovering from a hamstring injury in September and asked by his Newcastle teammates where he spent mid-season, the striker replied: ‘Qatar.’
Callum Wilson would relish the chance to be England’s leading man at the World Cup in Qatar
Even if Harry Kane (left) is declared fit for Friday’s game against the USA, Wilson’s confidence will remain
He doesn’t want confidence, Wilson. Arrogance? From afar perhaps. But not for those who regularly spend time with the 30-year-old.
For example, his club boss Eddie Howe will hold nothing but the opinion that Wilson is the most determined, resilient and positive player he has ever worked with.
So should Gareth Southgate turn to him in the event that Kane misses Friday’s match due to an ankle problem, Wilson will not be intimidated by the podium he will step on as England’s leading man. Shrinking under the spotlight? It will run taller than any skyscraper in Doha.
Early this month, before Southgate named his squad, Sportsmail gave Wilson 30 seconds to tell us why he should be on the plane. He accepted the challenge.
Substitute Wilson helped Jack Grealish score England’s sixth goal against Iran on Monday
To other attendees, it may have seemed like the question was a plant, so eager was Wilson for the task.
But speaking for England had become Wilson’s specialist subject – his weekly BBC podcast should have featured the sporting equivalent of a partisan broadcast – and he duly sent a list of reasons why Southgate should choose him.
Since Wilson was also speaking on the field by now, the Three Lions boss didn’t need to hear the answer. He already knew what the player could bring.
Wilson is also a ‘good tourist’. At Newcastle’s training ground, he bounces through the corridors and his laugh knocks him around the corner. For all the inner drive, there is an external, infectious quality that inspires others.
Wilson’s confidence makes him the perfect go-to man in this big tournament setting
The concern, as always with Wilson, is that the body has often failed the mind. But what should reassure Southgate is that his player has previously used this environment – the Aspire Academy in Doha – to aid his rehabilitation.
Muscles, you would assume, will snap much faster in the cold in the Northeast than in the heat in the Middle East.
His hamstrings certainly looked fine in the closing stages of Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran as he sprinted clear as a substitute for Kane before scoring a goal for Jack Grealish. It came as a surprise to some on Tyneside that he didn’t fire. But that’s Wilson – now that he’s on the inside, he doesn’t need to force approval.
His reaction to the refusal of an earlier introduction when Southgate changed plans due to an injury to Harry Maguire was also telling.
No need for mental adjustment – Wilson is ready to give everything for England
Stripped from the sidelines, he smiled and nodded, not frustration, but the conviction that his time would come. Would that be possible now?
Even if Kane is declared fit for the game against the USA, Wilson’s confidence will remain. That’s why he’s the perfect go-to man in this big tournament setting.
Mental adjustment is not necessary. Wilson is ready. He’s been waiting for this moment since he picked up his journal in August.