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HARRY WILSON – THE KING OF CORWEN

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When Harry Wilson replaced Hal Robson-Kanu with three minutes remaining in Wales’ away draw with Belgium in 2013, few knew just how good a player Wales had on their hands.

‘He must be highly rated’ to beat Gareth Bale’s youngest Wales debutant record, we all thought, as he wandered onto a Brussels pitch at the age of 16.

Those close to him already knew. His Grandfather pocketed £125,000 when young Wilson was handed his debut having backed his grandson to make it when he was just three years old.

Chris Coleman clearly spotted it, handing Wilson his debut in a decision which drew criticism from Craig Bellamy, who played his last game for Wales in that 1-1 draw with Belgium.

However, maybe Coleman and maybe even Harry’s grandfather will be surprised of the levels of performance the 21-year-old is already reaching.

It’s perhaps no surprise given the ability some of these top academy players have this day in age, but Wilson really looks to be something special and Ian Rush agrees. He told The Mirror: “He always stood out, even at Liverpool.

“He was called ‘the Welsh Brazilian’ – he had so much skill that they used to call him that at the Liverpool Academy.

“He’s always been special, as has that left foot of his. He’s a good lad, he wants to work hard and he wants to be successful and that goes a long way as well.”

Harry Wilson Wales Spain
Wales v Spain, International Football Friendly, National Stadium of Wales, 11/10/18: Wales’ Harry Wilson – Image: Influential Photography

He went under the radar a little. Team-mate for club and country, Ben Woodburn, was the player on everyone’s lips. Wilson was still playing in the younger age groups when Woodburn came off the bench to score against Leeds at Anfield in his second senior appearance for Liverpool.

Wilson wasn’t even in the Wales squad when Woodburn scored that terrific winning goal against Austria in the last qualifying campaign, and that must have been tough.

Wilson would have been forgiven for thinking that he’d had his time in the light as a youngster, making his debut before slipping back into the younger ages. Woodburn seemed to take his chance in spectacular style for both club and country, perhaps leaving Wilson to wonder whether he did enough in his early glimpse of first-team football.

Now this is no competition between the two Wales and Liverpool youngsters. However, it’s an important element when characterising the attitude of Harry Wilson, who wasn’t quite tipped as a wonder-kid in the way that Ben Woodburn was. But he should have been.

Since then, Wilson has jumped at a chance to join Frank Lampard’s Derby on loan having already impressed on a loan spell with Hull City in the Championship.

He’s scored a wonder-goal at Old Trafford to help defeat Manchester United, scored four times in all competitions for the Rams, and on the international stage, he scored the winner in a key win over Ireland in Dublin, replicating that Old Trafford free-kick.

Wilson is now a certain call-up for Ryan Giggs, and Wales fans only have good things to say about his performances in a red shirt.

Club football is no different. Wilson has been one of the stand-out performers for promotion-chasing Derby this season. He’s scored three times from out wide in his 10 starts and two substitute appearances this season, growing in strength as he continues to learn in the rough and tumble of the Championship.

The learning experience will be key for Wilson and Liverpool will be thrilled to see him making the most of it, first with Hull and now with Derby.

The physicality of the Championship, the limited time on the ball and the relentless schedule combine to offer the perfect classroom for these young players and that’s been proven in the past, as well as recently with how Harry Wilson himself has improved in the last 12 months.

BBC Derby journalist Ed Dawes provided his assessment on Wilson’s time at Derby so far, he said: “Harry started off slowly. With all last minute season-long loans, you’re never sure how fit the players are.

“He got injured early on and then came back with a vengeance. Scored the goal at Man Utd, but added express pace to Derby’s attacks and linked up well with Mason Mount. Wilson has worked hard and fits in well with Frank Lampard’s style of attacking football. Recently he’s done a role in midfield but he’s better as part of a front three.”

The 21-year-old just seems to get better and better, and hopefully, he is far from done. He’s grabbed the headlines with these excellent free-kicks, impressed with a number of fine performances, but he will need to deliver consistently to make the cut when he returns to Liverpool next summer.

That’s something he is capable of, however, and something he’s working hard to achieve with his want-to-learn attitude at Pride Park.

“He wants to learn and wants to play for Derby County,” added Ed Dawes. “He has Frank Lampard teaching him about the game, which is real bonus for the Rams this season.

“Lampard attracts players from big clubs. Adapting to men’s football is key as U23 games is simply not the same as the old Central League where you could end up facing Ian Rush in the reserves. He’s enjoying his football and hopefully he and Mason Mount will fire Derby to the Premier League.”

That attitude and evident talent could take Wilson a long way in this game and both Wales and Liverpool are set to benefit from that. Will he be the next Gareth Bale? Will he be even better? Those questions will be answered in good time.

Ed Dawes adds: “We’ve been here before with Liverpool loanees. Jordan Ibe had express pace and he terrified Championship defences. Liverpool recalled him in the January and he play a bit part in the rest of their season before leaving for Bournemouth.

“Wilson is different, he’s already established as a Welsh international and has lit up the stage at big games. He could be Kop favourite but it depends on Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy going forward. Youngster for the future? Or tried and tested Champions League stars?”

For now we can enjoy Wilson’s development both in a Wales and Derby shirt and he too looks to be enjoying himself, despite the growing pressure as expectations begin the rise. That’s important.

And perhaps that’s because he knows he is in good hands. At Liverpool he has some of the best coaches in the world, at Derby a former master of the midfield and now a manager who trusts youth in Frank Lampard. And for Wales, he has another manager who believes in youth and a former star of world football who mastered the wing position in Ryan Giggs. Not to mention he also gets the chance to work with superstar Gareth Bale.

Wilson finds himself in an almost perfect situation as he sets his sights on the top, as he continues his development as a talented young player.

Unbelievably, he’s just one of many who could go on to be world-class players from the latest crop of Welsh youngsters. An exciting future beckons and not least for Harry himself.

Where he goes from here, how he finishes the season and how he applies himself over the next few years will ultimately define the level he reaches as a player. However, with each great run, each eye-catching piece of skill and each wondergoal, it’s getting increasingly difficult not to join pundits and former players who have tipped Wilson for very big things.

The next Bale? Who knows, but it’s absolutely clear that Harry Wilson has all the ingredients to go on to be a star. Here’s to hoping he fulfils that potential, and here’s to enjoying every top-corner free-kick and showreel run along the way.

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