With the decade being periodically lit-up with excellence in attack at Coventry City, the biggest surprise about the first in the position named in the Team of the Decade is just how far ahead of everyone else in the vote they were. That player is Callum Wilson.
In another era, things could have gone very differently for Wilson at Coventry City. Part of the youth-team but with Jonson Clarke-Harris and Shaun Jeffers getting closer to the first-team around the same time that he was coming through. A couple of non-descript loan spells in non-league did little to enhance his standing at the club and he looked set to be allowed to leave without making much any impression at senior level.
A combination of a breakthrough season at under-23 level and the financial meltdown that led to administration, our exile to Sixfields, and a transfer embargo, meant that Callum Wilson was catapulted into the first-team reckoning. Even then, his inclusion as part of the squad wasn’t guaranteed, with manager Steven Pressley admitting that he was close to releasing him after a poor performance in pre-season.
As soon as the campaign started, Wilson immediately set about establishing himself as a key player for the side. Blessed with blistering pace, Wilson could make the most hopeful of hopeful forward punts into panic-inducing moments for the opposition. Early on, there was a sense that Wilson was not quite sure what to do with himself in good positions, but his determination and willingness to learn saw him rapidly progress beyond that initial uncertainty.
Paired in attack with a proven League One predator in Leon Clarke, Wilson seemed to take inspiration from his strike partner’s calm head in the final third. With Clarke dropping deep to link play, it allowed Wilson that extra time and space to perfect the art of getting into dangerous areas and finishing chances. It is a debate worth having whether Wilson would have developed into the striker he did so quickly without Clarke’s influence.
Before picking up an injury at the start of January, Wilson scored 15 times in 27 appearances. Upon his return two months later, the team had lost Leon Clarke and any semblance of form. From being an excellent part of a devastating whole, Wilson was now being asked to do the heavy-lifting for the team almost entirely on his own.
A run of five goals in five games upon his return demonstrated that Wilson was much more than someone who had benefited from playing with good players earlier in the campaign. From looking a completely raw talent at the start of the campaign, Wilson had not only developed into a lethal League One striker but had matured into the kind of character who could shoulder the burden of a team otherwise heading towards relegation.
At our lowest ebb, Callum Wilson served to remind everyone associated with Coventry City that there was still something to be proud of. The sad thing is that part of the reason why Wilson was able to emerge is the same reason why a large portion of our fan-base were unable to watch him on a weekly basis. That memories of Wilson are so fond and overwhelmingly positive nonetheless is evidence of the visceral thrill of watching an excellent player, particularly a goalscorer, engenders.