IN THE WAKE of Welsh football icon Gareth Bale’s retirement, a new talisman has emerged to carry the nation’s hopes – Harry Wilson. The 25-year-old winger, who burst onto the international scene a decade ago, is now spearheading Cymru’s quest for Euro 2024 success under the guidance of manager Rob Page.
Wilson’s pivotal role was underscored in last month’s remarkable 2-1 victory over World Cup semi-finalists Croatia, where he single-handedly kept Cymru’s dreams of automatic qualification alive with a brace. This stellar performance, precisely a decade after becoming the youngest-ever male player for Cymru at the age of 16, highlighted the winger’s journey from promising youth to seasoned professional.
Gareth Bale, the former captain and Cymru’s all-time leading goal scorer with 41 goals, left a significant void upon his retirement in January. Manager Rob Page acknowledged the challenge of filling Bale’s boots, stating, “Because of the players we had available before in Gareth, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams, perhaps he looked at it, and he was turning up and feeling he was a squad player.”
However, a summer heart-to-heart between Page and Wilson has proven transformative. The manager revealed, “We had a chat with him in the summer and said: ‘You are no longer that person or player. You are a big player for us. Look at what you are doing at club level’.” This conversation ignited a shift in Wilson’s mentality, propelling him from a perceived squad player to one of Cymru’s main men.
Page highlighted the evolution in Wilson’s approach, stating, “Go back about 12 months ago, he would turn up and expect to be part of the squad, or if he started he would be substituted on the hour mark. But the mentality has changed now. He’s playing in the Premier League, scoring goals and creating chances. When he plays for us now he’s one of the main men and showed that in the last game.”
Wilson’s recent exploits against Croatia marked his 50th cap, and his two-goal performance took his tally to eight goals for Cymru. The Fulham player, benefiting from stability after various loan spells earlier in his career, is now thriving in the Premier League.
Manager Rob Page spoke glowingly of Wilson’s development, stating, “He has stepped up to the plate. I’m so pleased for him because he’s not just a good player, he’s an absolute diamond of a kid.” Page emphasized Wilson’s professionalism, both on and off the pitch, praising the winger’s commitment and work ethic.
Cymru now faces crucial Euro 2024 qualifiers against Armenia and Turkey. Success in these matches will secure a top-two spot in Group D, ensuring automatic qualification and bypassing the play-offs in March. Wilson’s transformative journey from a squad player to a match-winner embodies the spirit that Cymru hopes will propel them to European glory in Germany next summer.