By Damian Spellman, PA
Eddie Howe has told England counterpart Gareth Southgate in-form Newcastle striker Callum Wilson is ready, willing and able to answer the nation’s call at the World Cup finals.
The 30-year-old frontman, who was last capped in 2019, was one of three Magpies – goalkeeper Nick Pope and full-back Kieran Tripper are the others – to be named in Southgate’s 26-man squad for Qatar on Thursday, although he is facing a race against time to recover from illness to face Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday.
Howe, who has worked with Wilson since he signed him for Bournemouth in 2014, has seen him emerge from injury misery – he has twice fought his way back from cruciate ligament ruptures – to take his place on the world stage, and is convinced he has the quality and strength of character to serve his country with distinction.
The Newcastle head coach said: “I would back Callum in any situation, that if he entered the pitch he would be able to score the goals England need.
“That’s always been in his DNA, the goalscoring ability. More importantly, the confidence to do it in any arena – that’s his biggest strength.
“I think he’s got everything in the sense of his game. He’s probably at the peak of his powers, he’s got really good experience behind him now, he’s played for England before, so I don’t think it will faze him.
“He has the inner belief that he’s there to play and hopefully score for his country.”
Representing Newcastle United on the world stage. 🦁 pic.twitter.com/vN1EpZPe43
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) November 10, 2022
Howe admits he did not particularly see his £3million signing from Coventry as a future World Cup star when he took him to Bournemouth a little more than eight years ago, but quickly realised that he had a player of genuine potential on his hands.
He said: “When I watched him play before he signed for us, I saw a huge potential. He was physically one of the best players I’d seen at that time, explosively quick, a quite unique running style, scored some really, really good goals.
“He needed work and refining in certain areas of his game and then when we signed him, you get a feeling instantly that, ‘This guy is special, this guy has got the character and the confidence to be a centre-forward for a big club’.”
That character has been demonstrated by Wilson shaking off the injuries which have punctuated his career.
Howe said: “Every time he suffered one, there was no side of him that ever looked depressed or down or any type of negative emotion, it was always, ‘Right, I’ve got to deal with this. I’m going to come back better and I’ll score even more goals’.”
Wilson has trained away from his team-mates this week after being laid low by illness, and Howe will make a late call ahead of the clash with Chelsea.
He said: “He’s been working well, but I need to make a decision on whether he’s fit enough to play.”