Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson has confirmed his credentials as one of the country’s most exciting young strikers at the Championship-topping Cherries this season, and considering the upward trajectory for both the club and his own career, there might be some truth in his initiation song after all.
After coming through the Coventry City Academy to make his professional debut in August 2009, 2013/14 was a breakout year for Callum. Despite being absent for two months with a dislocated shoulder, he struck 22 goals in 41 games for the Sky Blues, understandably alerting a large number of clubs to his talents.
Ultimately, it was Bournemouth who won the race for the 22-year-old, signing the frontman on a four-year contract in July 2014. He has taken to the second tier in terrific fashion in the months since, coming up with 11 league goals (13 in all competitions) to help fire a scintillating Bournemouth team to the summit of the Championship in style.
Norwich City were among the teams to miss out on Callum as he opted to grasp the chance to work with Eddie Howe, feeling the Cherries boss would provide him with the kind of guidance to take him to new levels. In a team full of talent and focus, he has thrived in the early stages, but fitting into the group dynamic also meant facing up to a nervy introduction when the side were in Austria last summer, as he explains.
“When I first came here I had to sing on the pre-season tour as a newcomer. I sang R. Kelly ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ and no one really gave me any stick for it so I think it went down well!”
Callum was given his first opportunity with the England Under-21s last year, earning a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad in November and making his debut in the 3-2 away defeat to France. Another player with experience for the Three Lions at that level is Junior Stanislas, who signed for Bournemouth just over a week before Callum.
The 25-year-old former West Ham United and Burnley winger came off the bench to net the winner on his home debut for the Cherries against Brentford back in August. However, Callum was less than impressed with how he’d announced himself to the team previously, with his choice of initiation song failing to strike a chord!
“Junior’s was terrible. I sang, Gosso (Dan Gosling) sang, and Junior sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’, which is unacceptable as a song for coming to a new team!”
In each of the last three years, a Bournemouth player has featured in their own music/football interview on here. Club legend and former striker Steve Fletcher was first up, followed by frontman Brett Pitman and winger Marc Pugh from the current squad.
Alongside other subjects, the name of the game with these interviews is to delve into discussion on how music fits into each player’s life. Every individual is different in that regard and not everyone interviewed on here has a hugely deep connection with music, but Callum confirms its significance to him.
“It plays a big part; I listen to it before games and it gets me motivated. Different music gets you in different moods and before games I listen to hip-hop, r&b, house music.
“It gets you mentally prepared, I think.”
Although Callum has made a sizeable amount of people sit up and take notice of him this season, it isn’t actually his first time at Championship level. In December 2010, he made his first league appearance for Coventry as they were beaten 2-0 at home to a Queens Park Rangers team en route to promotion to the Premier League. The former Kettering Town and Tamworth loanee was just 18 at the time and found himself alongside and up against numerous vastly experienced names at the Ricoh Arena that day.
Young or old, football can connect people from all backgrounds, and the same is undoubtedly true of music. As Callum thinks back to the first CD he ever had, he brings up a long-running compilation series that tends to get people from various generations nodding knowingly any time it is mentioned.
“I think it was at Christmas time, I got bought a CD, one of them ‘Now (That’s What I Call Music)’ CDs. I had one of them and I remember getting a stereo for Christmas as well so I just played my new CD on that all Christmas Day.
“I was probably about 12 or 13, I’d say.”
Callum’s emphatic impact for Coventry in 2013/14 was all the more vital as the Sky Blues were hit with a ten-point deduction (their second in as many seasons) with the campaign close to kick-off. Playing alongside Leon Clarke, who left to return to former club Wolves in January 2014, Callum was one half of a 40-goal strike force. Steven Pressley’s team staved off the threat of relegation, although finishing 18th and just four points clear of the drop was much lower than the season had promised at times.
Callum, who scored in five successive Sky Blues games last March and repeated the achievement with Bournemouth earlier this season, had become truly integral to his hometown club. However, even a name as famous as Coventry City will struggle considerably to hold on to its standout players when clubs from higher divisions come calling, and so it proved.
Winger Mohamed Coulibaly and goalkeeper Ryan Allsop joined Coventry on loan as part of the transfer taking Callum to the Goldsands Stadium and the striker’s double in Bournemouth’s 4-0 win at Huddersfield on the opening day was an immediate demonstration of his prowess. He has come up with the goods on the pitch so far but has he also graduated to the position of Cherries team DJ?
“I haven’t been yet but I think I did it away in pre-season and the lads were like, ‘turn this off’! Everyone has different tastes in music but Smithy (Adam Smith) and Frano (Simon Francis) are the ones who put their iPods on.
“Obviously they’re sad and just downloading songs all the time! They obviously have more time to find music.
“At Coventry, there was just one lad who used to update his iPod with all the music that we liked listening to and it’s similar to here, to be fair. They like more house music here and it’s more hip-hop there, but there’s not a big difference between it.”
With 55 Championship goals in their first 25 games of 2014/15, Bournemouth are the highest scorers in England’s top four divisions. They lead the table from Derby County on goal difference despite suffering their first loss since September in the league last Saturday at home to Norwich.
The Cherries have only five league defeats to their name so far but one of these sticks in Callum’s mind. In August, late goals from Brett Pitman (a penalty) and Steve Cook were not enough to stop Blackburn Rovers as they ran out 3-2 winners at Ewood Park, but perhaps Callum has uncovered the real reason for that!
“When we were at Blackburn away, Campy (Lee Camp) put his iPod on before the game and I felt like I was going to go to sleep! I had to put my headphones on and listen to something else.
“It was classic music and a lot of the older players knew what it was, but it just wasn’t for me, not before a game!”
On the subject of keepers at the south coast club, ex-Celtic and Fiorentina stopper Artur Boruc was brought in on loan from Southampton in September and the deal has since been extended until the season’s end. Callum mentioned how he seems to recall Poland’s 2006 World Cup number one performing his initiation song in his native language, but one player he remembers in perfect clarity for his vocal skills is a current Shrewsbury Town defender.
“Jermaine Grandison when I was at Coventry. We were on an away trip and he sang in front of everybody and he’s actually very good at singing.
“He records himself singing now and he was going to apply for The X Factor and stuff. That was the most memorable one because no one expected it because he’s such a big friendly giant!
“He started belting out some ballad and everyone was like ‘woah!’, but it was very good.”
When a club’s fortunes dramatically turn around, one way or another, a certain high or low point is frequently used as a reference. With Bournemouth, that moment in time is the conclusion of the 2008/09 season as they overcame a 17-point deduction to clamber free of League Two’s relegation zone in Eddie Howe’s very first year in management.
The aforementioned Steve Fletcher’s late winner at home to Grimsby Town secured safety, and considering the dire consequences the club were facing if they had have dropped out of the Football League, it is little wonder that the team’s heroics are so often mentioned. Just under six years on and with two promotions in the bag, the club are knocking on the door of the big time and it is difficult not to get carried away.
Deeply revered as player and manager for the Cherries, Eddie Howe is continuing to lead with assurance amid the ever-expanding expectation, and Callum immediately credited the 37-year-old when discussing why the club is somewhere he genuinely wants to be.
“I think the manager; the way he goes about himself day to day, he never drops his standards so every day has to be perfect. Everybody has to be 100 per cent and you can’t have any off-days where you’re not at it.
“I think that’s one of the key things you want and it’s proving to work and help the lads because we’re top of the league. The manager’s very intense, which is good.”
Following promotion from League One in 2013, the Championship play-offs were ultimately just six points away as last season reached a conclusion. Bournemouth finished 10th last time around, but with such spirit, hunger and firepower in their possession, there are not many expecting to see them outside the top few places in May, as much as they’d prefer to be ‘under the radar’!
Midfielder Harry Arter and winger Matt Ritchie have both signed new three-and-a-half-year contract extensions this month and there is also the community aspect of the club that remains something to be extremely proud of. Just like supporters, Callum has everything to enjoy at the moment and he will be after more of the personal form that saw him grab a match-winning double at Bolton Wanderers in October.
The number 13 was most recently on target in the 6-1 thrashing of Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on December 20th but what about the person behind the player? He talks of his life off the field as decidedly regular but admits there is an area that he has a growing interest in.
“My ambitions are all to do with football really but I like renovating houses and I watch programmes on that, so I think I’ll go into that when I retire.”
Before he rejoins the push for promotion there is one more contribution needed from Callum here. In recent years, the players featured on here have been asked to round off their interviews by becoming player-manager of their own fantasy 5-a-side team. This works by each interviewee picking four of their best career teammates to join them in their line-up.
Although everything would suggest he is still in the early days of his time as a professional, Callum already has a respectable pool of names to select from for this. Beginning by deliberating over whether to name Artur Boruc as his keeper, he decided to go for an ex-Coventry teammate currently attracting many admirers for his form at Sheffield Wednesday.
“I’d say Keiren Westwood in goal. I think he’s a great player, he comes for the ball a lot and he’s technically good as well.
“I’d say Tommy (Elphick) – he’s a good defender, a good captain here, and I like the way he plays. Midfielder, I’d say Nathan Redmond – when I was away with England I played with him, he’s obviously at Norwich and he’s a good player.
“Striker, I’d probably say Marlon King. I think he’s a good player, obviously off the field he’s had a few issues, but on the pitch he’s a good player to train with and learn from.”
To catch each of these interviews, follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes
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