Callum Wilson always knew he was going to be an England player. Even when he was running down the wing at Kettering Town smelling the burgers and chips on the touchline.
For Bournemouth striker Wilson it has been a tough old journey to the top. And even now the 27-year-old knows that, as he sits chatting at St George’s, Harry Kane is always going to be ahead of him in the queue of England strikers.
But Wilson, in fine form for the Cherries at the moment, with five goals in his last six games, is not fazed as he prepares for the Euro 2020 qualifying clashes against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. He is just waiting for his moment.
That moment did not look remotely likely when he was sent out on loan to Conference sides Kettering and Tamworth from his first club Coventry in 2011/12. In all, the then raw but confident 19-year-old netted two goals in 20 games for the two clubs before being recalled.
But Wilson said: “I was playing on loan at Kettering and Tamworth but I said I would play for England one day.
“Everyone calls me self-confident. But if you don’t believe you can get somewhere you will never get there. That was always the aim – to play for the national team, to play in the Premier League.
“When I got here I felt I had been there before because in my head I had been there.
“I never told any of the players there – it’s a bit disrespectful when a lot of them were older and never got that opportunity.
“They would be thinking: ‘”Who’s this little whippersnapper, saying he’s going to play for England – get out of here.
“But I told family, friends, and they all said go for it. Some games you would be playing terrible, but you have to keep that belief – and here I am.”
It was a valuable learning experience: “At Conference stadiums you could smell burgers and chips when you’re running down the wing.
“I still believed. I was only on loan. It was about getting experience. It toughened me up, playing men’s football, getting a bollocking off the managers.
“In the academies if you play badly you don’t get told you’re playing bad. But in the Conference people’s livelihoods depend on results. Win bonuses make such a difference.
“If you’re making a mistake you’re getting told about it. It built that resilience up. I’m still in touch with some of them on social media.”
It was that resilience which helped Wilson overcome the devastating trauma of two cruciate ligament injuries in 2016/17, and which keep the Cherries striker – first called up just under a year ago – patient in the England set up with Tottenham star Kane at the moment coach Gareth Southgate’s first choice.
He said: “Harry is the captain, he plays well for his club week-in, week-out, so he’s doing something right.
“In the finishing sessions you watch how clinical Harry is. There is no laughing and joking, just pure concentration. Sometimes in club football, you’ll be having a bit of banter with the lads, but in a game you have to be focused. Harry is in that frame of mind. So when I’m working on my finishing now, there is no laughing and joking.
“My club performances speak for themselves. They will get you into the squad, that’s all I can do. Get here, train well, wait for my opportunity, be patient. Harry is a great player, I’m not saying I want to kick him out of the team, but with injuries, things that happen, you have to be ready to grasp the opportunity.”