Eddie Howe has ‘history’ with Newcastle United player
Eddie Howe goes back a long way with one Newcastle United player in particular.
They’ve shared many moments over the years on their long journey together – and there was another special moment at the club’s training ground last week.
Howe bumped into Callum Wilson in a corridor after a training session a week ago. The striker, recovering from Covid-19, had learnt after a morning session that he had been called up by England for the first time in more than three years – and was heading to the World Cup in Qatar along with club-mates Kieran Trippier and Nick Pope.
The pair have been through a lot together, and Howe congratulated the 30-year-old, who he had signed in 2014 from Coventry City while Bournemouth manager.
“It was actually quite a random event,” said United’s head coach. “We were coming in, and the news came through and I bumped into Callum in the corridor. It was a nice moment to share with him and the coaches.
“I’m really pleased for Callum. I’m really pleased for all of them (Newcastle’s international players) in different ways.
“My history with Callum, my length of time with him, I’ve seen some of the disappointing moments he’s had, I’ve also seen the highs and seen him grow into a Premier League player from a lower League player.
“I’ve seen him score hat-tricks in the Premier League, and shared those moments with him.
“I know how desperate he was to go to the World Cup, so it was nice to share that moment with him.”
Wilson’s call-up wasn’t a random event. The 30-year-old – who had a long spell out last season with an Achilles injury – was seemingly a long way from a recall when he limped off against Manchester City in August.
The Coventry-born player had scored in the game, which ended 3-3, before being forced off in front of England manager Gareth Southgate.
“Difficult moments” are nothing new to Wilson, who ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in both knees while at Bournemouth.
Asked about Wilson’s reaction to those injuries, Howe said: “Initially, there’s always a shock, especially the first time he got his cruciate injury, because he had never experienced that before.
“I remember the game well, and I think the first one is probably not as difficult, maybe, as the second one, because the second one you know what you have to go through, you’ve already done it – and you know it’s a long road back.
“They were difficult moments for Callum, but he faced it and fought back brilliantly from both in a way you could see his mental strength coming through.
“A real focus on the future, not what has just happened, not on the lost opportunity, but on ‘I’m going to come back better’ – and that was always his focus.”
That same determination was in evidence after his early-season setback.
“It’s an amazing thing for him individually,” said Howe. “He’s had a difficult career. His (career) is not all about successes. He’s risen from lower leagues to the World Cup – it’s been brilliant to witness.
“Dedication to his work and a positive mindset. He has a way of scoring, and a uniqueness.”
A diary entry from Wilson months ago underlined that mindset. He’d marked November 13 with the note “Pack for Qatar”.
Wilson’s focus last season was solely on the plight of his club, according to Howe. When Howe took charge just over a year ago, the club was 19th in the Premier League – and an England recall wasn’t discussed.
The club stayed up, comfortably in the end, and the team ended the first half of the season in third place in the Premier League following a run of five successive wins.
“There weren’t any early conversations (about England),” said Howe. “It was all about Newcastle and staying in the Premier League. It was all about building the team spirit and togetherness to stay in the Premier League.
"England’s only taken his focus, I think, this season, but I’d say the same for all the players. When this season started, the World Cup focus came in (to focus), but never to the detriment of Newcastle. As I said to all my players, it’s been about this team.”
Newcastle have improved markedly over the calendar year. The players have also improved as individuals, and Howe believes there’s more to come from Wilson.
"I believe that for all my players,” said Howe. “I think there are areas to his game (which can be improved), and we’ll try to seek those and help him, but, yes, course there’s areas to improve.”
Wilson, though, is close to the finished article, and Howe’s confident that he can deliver for England.
“I’d back Callum in any situation, that if he entered the pitch he’d be able to score the goals England need,” said Howe. “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.
Wilson, importantly, will back himself in any situation.
“He believes in himself, not in an arrogant way, not in a negative way, it is all positive,” said Howe. “He has that inner confidence in himself and his ability, which I think all top players need.”
Wilson hasn’t gone to Qatar to make up the numbers in Southgate’s 26-man squad.
"He is going to want to contribute, for sure,” said Howe. “He doesn’t want to go there in name. He wants to contribute. He’ll give everything to do that.
“He can deliver. He’s got everything, and is at the peak of his powers. It won’t phase him, and he has the inner belief he’s there to play – and score.”
Newcastle fans, having seen Wilson score six goals from 11 games this season, will back him to deliver for his country in Qatar.