How Bournemouth's hat-trick hero Callum Wilson overcame his injury ordeal
It is a footballer’s worst nightmare. You are at the height of your powers, playing in the most-watched league in the world, when serious injury strikes.
In a heartbeat, optimism turns to dread and contentment to insecurity. Ruled out for at least six months, the painstaking road to recovery begins with no guarantee that you will ever rediscover your best form.
For Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson, this is a road with which he is all too familiar. In the past two years, the 25-year-old has suffered a career-threatening injury not once, but twice.
After rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in September 2015, Wilson sustained similar damage to his left knee during a routine training session some 15 months later.
Many doubted he would ever play professional football again, let alone for Bournemouth in the Premier League. As well as the physical rehabilitation, the enormity of the mental battle he had to endure could not be overestimated.
However, with a hat-trick against Huddersfield Town, Wilson conquered his demons.
He had already scored for the Cherries from the penalty spot in the Carabao Cup clash with Middlesbrough last month, but it was evident from the celebrations after heading in the opener against the Terriers that his return to the Premier League goal scoring trail meant everything.
Swamped by his team-mates, his wide-eyed grin was enough to turn even the most dispassionate onlooker misty-eyed.
Like the proverbial London bus, once one had arrived, others were quick to follow. Wilson’s second, a crisp finish from Charlie Daniels’ quickly taken free-kick, came five minutes later and demonstrated his predatory instinct in front of goal.
The former Coventry City hit man was not to be denied his hat-trick, when he drilled the ball past Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl in the latter stages after excellent work from Joshua King.
When Wilson returned from his first knee injury, something did not appear to be quite right. His running seemed to be inhibited and for a player who relied on explosive pace over the first few yards, it meant his influence was diminished.
He managed to score six goals, but the channel running that manager Eddie Howe demands from his number nine, which creates space for others to exploit, was not as apparent. Perhaps the mental scars had proved difficult to expel from his mind, or the operation to repair his fragile knee had not had the desired effect.
This time, however, Wilson looks more like his old self. His infectious personality is back and, since making his long-awaited comeback last month, he has given Bournemouth a cutting edge.
Goals have been in short supply this season and before Saturday’s demolition of Huddersfield, the Cherries had scored only seven times in 11 matches – a ratio far worse than their previous two Premier League campaigns.
It is no coincidence that Howe’s side have looked much more potent with Wilson back in the starting XI.
Although he missed a gilt-edged chance away to Newcastle in his first Premier League start since January, the likeable forward turned in an encouraging performance before reaping his reward against the Terriers.
Despite his interrupted Premier League career, Wilson has now bagged two hat-tricks for Bournemouth, taking his overall tally to 14 from 36 top-flight appearances.
It is a commendable figure, especially in light of his injury setbacks, and one which builds on the promise he showed during the Cherries’ phenomenal 2014/15 Championship season, where his 20 goals played such a crucial role in firing the club to the title.
If he continues to score regularly for Bournemouth, Wilson will inevitably be linked with an England call-up. Right now, watching him playing football at all is cause for great celebration.