IT HAS been quite a journey for Callum Wilson who in the space of just over two years has risen from League One football with the Sky Blues to become one of the most sought after strikers in the Premier League and an England call beckons when he returns to full fitness.
Observer sports editor caught up with the young striker to look back on his incredible journey to discuss his reasons for leaving his home-town club, winning promotion to the top flight and becoming one of the best young strikers in the country.
WITH the Sky Blues struggling off the field following a well documented row involving the Ricoh Arena and the city council, and with the club having to groundshare in Northampton, it is fair to say that Callum Wilson’s form was one of few highlights during the 2013/14 season.
A product of the club’s hugely successful academy, Wilson was given his big break at the Sky Blues by former manager Steven Pressley and he recalls how he made sure he was ready for his breakthrough season that would change his career and life.
“When I came back for pre-season I made sure that I was fully fit because I’d played the last ten games or so under Pressley before the season ended.
“I started away at Notts County and I got taken off at half time. That was my last game of the season so over the summer I was motivated to come back and show the team, the manager and the fans what I could do.
“I started off OK in pre-season and had a few dodgy games abroad in Germany but then the manager’s put me in for the first game of the season and I’ve never really looked back since.
“There was pressure on me during that big season at Coventry because the manager had put me in and it’s a big decision from him to put somebody in who’s never really been a proven goalscorer and never really played many games.
“So for him to put his faith in me, I’ve always told him that I’d keep in touch with him and I still do now. He knows how much I appreciate that.
“For him to put his faith in me I felt as though there was pressure for me perform to repay that faith and show people why he put me in.”
Wilson went on to score 22 goals that season despite missing two months of the campaign due to a shoulder injury.
But he will always call his first goal against Colchester in March 2013 as the most important to him.
Wilson collected the ball on the edge of the area and fired a powerful low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to earn Pressley’s side a 2-2 draw.
“I had a number of substitute appearances here and there and you get a little bit of a taste for it. That makes you hungrier for more and makes you want to succeed.
“When I scored my first goal that will always be one of the highlights of my career because that was something I had always set out to do.
“That was my goal and ambition at the time. I’ve always set myself short-term goals and that was a big one for me.”
Wilson played alongside Leon Clarke for much of the 2013/14 season and the pair formed a deadly partnership as the Sky Blues fought back from a ten-point deduction to rise up the table towards the play-offs.
And Wilson still looks back on that season with fond memories despite being forced to play 35 miles away in Northampton.
“Myself and Leon (Clarke) set the season off on fire. We motivated each other by having personal competition to see who could score the most goals.
“We both thrived off that and we wanted to out-score each other every game! If one of us scored and the other one didn’t but the team had won, we’d still be disappointed because we wanted to so do well.
“I think it was good for the squad to have two strikers like that and in good form.”
It was no surprise to see a number of Championships clubs declare an interest in Wilson in the summer of 2014, with both Norwich City and Bournemouth both eventually having offers accepted.
“When you’re having a good season you get told of interest here, there and everywhere. My agent at the time decided not to tell me too much until it was a bit more concrete so that he didn’t get my hopes up.
“I found out that Bournemouth were interested about a month or so before the season had finished, so I went and spoke to Steven Pressley and I knew that there was an opportunity for me to move on.
“I spoke to him and said I wanted to test myself against better players in a higher division if the opportunity came around.
“The club then agreed a fee with both Norwich and Bournemouth. I drove to Norwich to have a look around their training facilities, I had a conversation with the manager and I was back on the road again straight down to Bournemouth and I did the same thing down there.
“I stayed overnight in Bournemouth to have a think about it and I had made my decision.”
Leaving his hometown club as well as friends and family was a difficult decision for Wilson, who at the time was just 21.
However, he feels the move down south helped turn him into a man and helped shape him into the player he is today.
He added: “It was a massive decision to leave Coventry because when I was growing up as a kid when we played at Highfield Road all I wanted to do was play there.
“It was hard for me because everything I’d known was all in Coventry and everything I knew was there, so the thought of moving away was a bit crazy.
“I thought ‘I’m going to have to become a man’, moving away with my family to a new area and setting up a new life there.
“It was tough because I would have always liked to have played for Coventry in the higher divisions. When the club were in the Championship it would have been great to have been playing then.
“But when you’re playing in League One, ultimately you want to keep progressing and the only way for me to do that was to leave unfortunately.
“It was hard at first to be honest because when I first moved down to Bournemouth I had no house so I had to move down on my own and for six to eight weeks I was just staying in a hotel before I found a place.
“I didn’t really see my family throughout the week. I went from seeing them every single day to seeing them twice a week which was a bit hard at first.
“When they finally came down I think that’s when my season really kicked off then because you begin to feel a bit more settled, you’ve got your family around you again and I think I then began to play in the same way I did at Coventry.”
Read the final part of Wilson’s interview with the Observer next week where he talks about his new life on the south coast with Bournemouth, winning promotion to the Premier League and find out just how close he was to being called up by England boss Roy Hodgson.
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