Callum Wilson: Scoring On England Debut Was A 'Dream Come True'
Anyone who was a football mad kid growing up will have played ‘Wembley’, the classic street football game.
You’d play it in singles or in doubles, on the school playground or at the local playing fields and copying your heroes was pure ecstasy.
The number of players who engaged in ‘Wembley’ as a kid before going on to score at the home of football on their England debut can’t be too high but Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson is one of the select few to tick off the esteemed double.
Wearing the No.9 on his back against the USA in November, the 27-year old was on target in a 3-0 win that marked the end of Wayne Rooney’s decorated England career.
The feeling was a tad more euphoric than declaring ‘penalties all-round’ in the game at the park.
“[It was a] dream come true,” Wilson tells FootyNews, sitting in the seats of the indoor pitch at the state-of-the-art St George’s Park facility after a light session on the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch.
“When you’re a kid you’re playing in the streets, around the garages and things like that – and [you] play games called Wembley; everyone’s scoring goals at Wembley down in your little estates.
“But to actually get there and do it in the stadium for the national team, it was an amazing feeling that I shared with family and friends.
“I guess in the moment you don’t really get too much time to reflect so it will be something I will look back on later in life and share with my kids. We’ll all appreciate it even more together.”
The Cherries striker looked perfectly at home in international football and at ease throughout this interview, displaying the ‘spring in his step’ that his club manager, Eddie Howe, talked about following his dream debut four months ago.
“Going into the November international break I was doing ok for my club, so I had a bit of confidence coming into the squad anyway,” he says of the immediate impact he made on the national stage.
“I went back to the club and carried it on again, little goals and triggers along the way are always healthy for a striker.
“Sometimes you can start to doubt yourself if you haven’t scored for a while but to come away and score on your debut for your country, it just took my confidence to a new level.”
However, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for the Coventry City youth product. He suffered two ACL injuries, one on either knee, in the space of 16 months.
The two setbacks tested his mental toughness; forcing him to alter his mindset and make some tweaks to his training approach.
“When you experience a serious knee injury, people are talking about your career being over.
“It was an eye-opener to realise that every day on the training field, you can be a bit more tired than other days and you think, ‘I can’t really be bothered today’.
“I didn’t do as many eg weights as I probably should have and never used to warm up on my own before the actual team whereas now I take so much pride in my body in order to stay fit.
“This is a new chapter of my life and my career and I’m not going to let that [injury] hold me back.”
The main positive Wilson took from his first injury was that he was a Premier League player who suffered an ACL injury – and was not still playing in the lower echelons of English football.
Valuable game-time at Kettering Town and Tamworth in non-league football arrived when he wasn’t getting a look-in at Coventry, yet Wilson wanted to be on the big stage.
“For any young player that has setbacks along the way in terms of a club not believing in you at that moment, going out and getting those loan games in non-league was a massive eye-opener and a good experience.
“I also went down to that level and thought, ‘This is not what I want for my career’.
“I’m going into portacabins as changing rooms – no disrespect to those leagues – I’m turning up at stadiums where there are fans standing on the side and they’re all having burgers and pints.
“I wanted to be in a big stadium – I always believed I was good enough and it was just about getting that break, being consistent and taking my opportunities when they came around.”
Wilson went back to the West Midlands and bagged 22 goals in League One for Coventry in 2013/14.
Bournemouth then snapped him up for a fee of £3 million when they were chasing promotion to the Premier League.
It’s proved to be a shrewd investment for the seaside club. The current campaign has seen Wilson notch 11 goals and six assists in the league and he’s on course to achieve objectives he made at the start of the season.
“I’ve set targets for myself and even though I’ve been out for six to seven weeks I’m still on the way to those targets,” Wilson stated.
“I set realistic ones so having not previously got into double figures because of injuries before, that was a first little stage.
“I didn’t really set a target on assists to be honest but it’s just something that seems to have come naturally from the way we play and me probably maturing a bit more.
“Sometimes when I was younger there’d be opportunities to maybe play in a teammate whereas I was being a bit selfish trying to get goals for myself.
“Now I put the team first and it’s beneficial for the club, myself and other strike partners.”
Having had a taste of international football, Wilson’s next goal is to turn out for England in a major tournament. You can sense the excitement in his voice when he talks about it.
“You’re watching the World Cup as a fan, I guess like everybody else was – making sure you’re in front of the TV for big games. You think back, ‘If I didn’t have my injuries, would I have been closer to getting into the squad?’
“I might have had a chance of going there but you can’t really be living in the past.
“It was just a case of watching it and being proud of the team like everybody else, but then also thinking about the future, that I want to be part of that team’s success and celebrations.
“It was time to knuckle down and try and get myself into the squad.”
With the European Championships semi-finals and final at the national stadium for the first time since the memorable Euro ’96 tournament on home soil, Wilson might just have a chance of making more Wembley history.
Head & Shoulders, Official Hair Care Partner of the England Teams, spent time with Callum as he perfected his new #JUSTWATCHME celebration.