Could the return of Callum Wilson be the catalyst for an upturn in Bournemouth’s fortunes?
Bournemouth’s recent history has been as eventful as it has been impressive, and looking at their current Premier League status it is hard to articulate the position the club was in just ten years ago.
In 2008 the Cherries were placed into administration for the second time in little over ten years, starting the 2008-09 League Two season with a 17-point deduction and a looming transfer embargo.
Somewhat miraculously they managed to overturn this deficit, securing their Football League status in their final home match of the season against Grimsby, and this sparked the beginning of an unprecedented rejuvenation in English football as Bournemouth gained promotion after promotion.
With Eddie Howe at the helm the Cherries managed to navigate their way through the Football League ladder before, in May 2015, they sealed their redemption from the jaws of football’s abyss with the most unlikely promotion to the top-flight, signalling a dramatic turnaround from their woes of 2008.
Their impressive revival showed little signs of slowing down in England’s top division, finishing 16th in their first top-flight season before admirably working their way into the top-half last time out.
But, for the first time in a fair few years, the Cherries are currently facing a patch of adversity after their less than pleasing opening to the new Premier League season, struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Howe’s side have claimed just one victory in their opening seven matches – coming against newly-promoted Brighton – and as such they sit second bottom of the league, only ahead of Crystal Palace.
Despite making a number of high pedigree signings over the summer, bringing in Chelsea duo Asmir Begovic and Nathan Ake and adding prolific goal-scorer Jermain Defoe to their ranks, something hasn’t quite clicked into gear yet and Bournemouth could do with getting a run of wins on the board soon.
It is perhaps the perfect timing, then, that Callum Wilson has been stepping up his recovery from a long-term knee injury across recent weeks and could be in-line for a return before the month is over.
The 25-year-old played a full 90 minutes on Monday night for Bournemouth’s Under-21 side – his second start in the space of seven days for the reserves – finding the back of the net twice in the 3-2 defeat at Cheltenham, and it seems he’s starting to build-up match fitness well ahead of a return.
The news on Wilson’s progress will no doubt come as a huge relief for boss Howe, with the striker not playing since January after suffering cruciate ligament damage for the second time in just 15 months.
Speaking to Sky Sports after Monday’s match, Wilson sounded confident about being ready for Premier League action in the upcoming weeks, insisting he is ‘ready to go’. He said:
“I’m feeling fine, the knee feels strong and I feel ready to go. I’m going to carry on working hard in training and waiting for my chance.
“It’s always good to score as it builds confidence and since the injury it’s good to get back on the scoresheet.
“I was never in doubt over my abilities and I feel I’m striking the ball probably better than I was before to be honest. Two goals, both different goals today, and now I’m looking forward to scoring these goals in the first team.”
Before Joshua King’s arrival on the big stage towards the end of last season it’s easy to forget that it was Wilson who was Bournemouth’s main man, scoring six times in 17 starts prior to his latest injury scare.
He proved to be the difference on a number of occasions in tight games, single-handedly earning his side points with goals against West Brom, Watford, Liverpool and Arsenal, and his presence has been missed.
Talking to the Bournemouth Echo earlier this month, captain Simon Francis has tipped his teammate to be an instant hit when he does return, claiming he is looking strong since returning to first-team training.
“Callum has come back stronger and is feeling more positive than ever.
“From what I’ve seen, he can definitely get back to his best. He’s hitting or even breaking his maximum speed which he’s had for the past few years, he’s looking stronger in the gym and his ball work seems great.
“His return is massive for our team spirit and morale. He wanted to be involved against Leicester City and he said to me, ‘I might go and see the manager’, and I said, ‘just calm down a bit, get a few training games in first’. He’s chomping at the bit to get back in and, hopefully, he will soon.”
It will be music to the ears of Bournemouth supporters as they look to find a solution to their goal drought this year, with four goals in seven games accurately representing their struggles until now.
King has failed to continue the momentum from the end of last year that saw him find the net 10 times in the final 12 league matches, whilst Defoe is yet to open his account in his second spell down at the Vitality, and the door is now wide open for Wilson to come in and add some life to his team.
There has been a lack of sharpness and cutting edge in their play in the final third, carving out an average of just five chances per match – the third worst record in the Premier League – and Wilson could offer a fresh impetus inside opposition territory.
His natural ability to finish around the 18-yard box is what Bournemouth are crying out for, and Howe will hope that he can also bring the best form out of King once again as competition for starting roles hots up.
However, whilst his pedigree in front of goals speaks for itself since his Coventry City days, the impact he is likely to have on the dressing room – and on the home support at the Vitality Stadium – could provide a much-needed lift in spirits and serve to kick-start Bournemouth’s underwhelming opening.
With the likes of Stoke City, Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City, Burnley, Southampton and Crystal Palace all coming up across Bournemouth’s next nine matches it’s arguably the perfect time for Wilson to come back into the first-team fold, and he could easily return with a bang.
The above encounters represent a real possibility of earning 21 points before the notoriously chaotic festive period, and anything close to maximum points would leave the Cherries in a comfortable spot.