Callum Wilson has had the perfect start to the season and moved a step closer to potentially fulfilling a Paul Merson prediction.
The striker scoring in a Newcastle United win over Nottingham Forest, getting both the player and team up and running.
This season of course is set to be like no previous ones, with a World Cup finals splitting it in two. Sixteen rounds of Premier League matches to be played by 13 November, before then the action moves to Qatar.
This is what Paul Merson had to say about Callum Wilson, when talking to Sky Sports on 15 May 2022:
“(If) Callum Wilson comes back firing at the start of next season, I think he goes to the world cup.
“I think he has got international movement.
“I think his movement as a centre-forward is better than all the (England) others, bar Harry Kane.
“But the others, he has got better movement.
“He’s got three months.
“Get ten in ten and you have got every chance.”
Amusingly / ironically, the day after Paul Merson made the comments above, after five months out injured, Callum Wilson made a triumphant return to the Newcastle team against…Arsenal. He might not have scored in that game but Wilson led the line superbly against a team who needed to win to qualify for the Champions League, Newcastle United dominating Merson’s beloved Arsenal and Mikel Arteta admitting his team deserved to lose by a lot more goals, so good were Wilson and his teammates.
On this occasion I find myself having difficulty in disagreeing with anything Paul Merson had to say here.
The big problem of course with Callum Wilson has been his injury record and he has started only 40 of the 77 Premier League matches in his time at St James’ Park. With 21 goals in that time though, it is an average of just better than a goal every other start.
Indeed, after helping Newcastle beat Arsenal in that final home match of the season, Wilson then scored two goals that relegated Burnley on the final day. The summer break arguably coming at the worst moment for Callum Wilson but then returning to action 76 days later with that excellent finish against Forest, the Newcastle striker is looking good.
Paul Merson says that Callum Wilson has got three months to convince Gareth Southgate and in a way he is correct.
However, I think the Newcastle striker also has an initial immediate one month window where he has to convince Southgate as well.
England only have one more scheduled get together before Gareth Southgate will name his squad and Callum Wilson surely has to make that squad.
On 23 September and 26 September, England play Italy and Germany respectively in Nations League matches. If Wilson isn’t included in that get together then surely he has no hope of then suddenly getting called into the very final squad. If Gareth Southgate is considering bringing in somebody like the NUFC player, who hasn’t featured with England for so long (since 2019), then this September squad is a must.
Callum Wilson might have 16 Premier League games before England head off to Qatar but it looks like only seven NUFC Premier League matches to try and impress Southgate for this September get together.
A goal against Forest the perfect start and now it is Brighton away, Man City home, Wolves away, Liverpool away, Palace home and West Ham away.
That West Ham match is on Sunday 11 September and Southgate will be naming his squad in that following midweek, before then Newcastle are at home to Bournemouth on Saturday 17 September, before that international break.
A tough set of fixtures for sure but maybe all the better for Callum Wilson, because if he can knock in say five or six goals or better (four or five now, having got that one on Saturday), then surely he will have every chance of that vital initial return to the England squad.
Last (2021/22) season in the Premier League, when it came to English strikers, you had Harry Kane with 17 goals this season but other than him, not many English centre-forwards knocking in many goals last season.
Jamie Vardy got 15, but as things stand, isn’t wanting to play for England any more.
Then after that you had Ivan Toney with 12 last season, Ollie Watkins on 11 goals, but then despite only start 16 games, no out and out English striker / centre-forward got more than Callum Wilson’s eight Premier League goals.
Other English players such as Sterling (13), Maddison (12), Bowen (12), Mount (11), Saka (11) and Smith Rowe (10) got respectable numbers of goals but aren’t centre-forwards.
Whilst the likes of Calvert-Lewin will have to show his fitness and form after injury issues and has had the worst possible start, having been ruled out with a new injury from the opening matches, having had an injury and fitness nightmare last season, plus he only scored five goals in fifteen starts.
So, the opportunity is surely there for Callum Wilson, if he can impress for Newcastle United early in the season.
Even with my NUFC bias, I honestly think that Wilson is a better striker and certainly finisher than the likes of Watkins, Calvert-Lewin, Toney etc.
I would also rate Callum Wilson ahead of Tammy Abraham, he got 17 goals in Serie A for Roma last season but in his final Chelsea season only managed six goals in 22 Premier League appearances (including 12 starts). He is decent but I think Wilson a better goalscorer than Abraham.
Harry Kane is obviously automatic first choice but I would rate only Vardy as a better striker / goalscorer than Wilson out of the potentials and he (Vardy) is now 35 years old and seemingly with no interest in an England call up.
I think the reality is that when looking at strikers to go to Qatar, it is a case of Harry Kane starting every match (unless injury hits) and then after that, the most important this is wanting strikers on the bench capable of coming on and grabbing a goal. Callum Wilson winning that race for me as well.
If he can stay free of injuries this could be a stellar year for Wilson, for club and country.
In June, it was announced that 26 men squads will be allowed for this World Cup, rather then the usual 23, a big lift for somebody like Callum Wilson hoping to make a late run into the England squad.
Not getting carried away, well just a little bit…but a lovely thought if Callum Wilson can score the goals to help put Newcastle United in a competitive position after these first 16 PL games, then head off for his personal reward with England in Qatar.