Is Callum Wilson ready for England?
Yesterday marked a major milestone in the return from injury of Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. After a lengthy spell on the sidelines the Coventry-born forward scored a hat-trick against Huddersfield - is he now in contention for an England place?
Against Huddersfield Town, 25-year-old striker Wilson made his first Premier League start since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in February 2017. The forward scored three goals in impressive fashion, bagged the man of the match award and with it Wilson reminded England manager Gareth Southgate of his quality.
For Wilson, it has been a tough road to the top. Dogged with injuries throughout his career, the Bournemouth man has had two notable injuries since his arrival on the South Coast. The striker ruptured his ACL in his right knee in September 2015. After working his way back in April 2016, it would be less than a year before he sustained the very same injury to his left knee on the 1st February 2017.
Wilson's performance yesterday will be a reminder for Gareth Southgate that there is plenty of attacking talent in the Premier League from which to choose from. Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy are undoubtedly England's best two strikers and with the World Cup ahead next year, Southgate will be looking to add at least two more strikers to his final squad. With a continued run of form, Callum Wilson could force his way into the squad heading to Russia.
To understand Wilson's potential, it is worth researching his goalscoring form at his boyhood club Coventry City. The Sky Blues have struggled for over a decade, but Wilson is certainly one of the best young players to have come out of the Ricoh Arena. At Coventry, Wilson scored an impressive 23 goals in 55 domestic games before being snapped up by Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe for a cut-price £3 million.
Since then, a series of the previously mentioned injuries has cut short Wilson's progress. But an impressive return of 34 goals in 81 games for the Premier League club has caught the eye of many in the footballing world.
Bournemouth have an interesting run of games coming up in the Premier League and Wilson will have his eye on adding to his goalscoring tally. Next up for the Cherries is an away visit to struggling Swansea City, followed by the home game with Burnley. Southampton follow that, prior to a trip to Selhurst Park to play bottom of the league Crystal Palace. A goalscoring effort in some of those four games will give Gareth Southgate food for thought.
Gareth Southgate proved in the recent international friendlies against Brazil and Germany that he is not afraid to tinker. Calling up the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tammy Abraham demonstrates that the England manager is ready to give opportunities to those who are not playing regularly or are not currently at the Premier League's top clubs.
Even more relevant is the fact that Wilson is now likely to keep veteran striker Jermain Defoe out of the Bournemouth side, a striker who still retains international ambition having last appeared for England in March of this year. Wilson will now have the very realistic target of keeping 35-year-old Defoe out of the England squad for Russia 2018.