Wilson loan a Bright idea
Just a few short months after dourly clinging on to a place in the Championship, Brighton and Hove Albion found ourselves bothering the big spending and far stronger clubs at the top of the league. Remarkably, we were unbeaten and going along quite nicely but we were lacking goals. We were unbeaten despite the form of our strikers, not because of it. We were being linked with loan signings, and a few other names were being tossed around as potential January signings. At the end of the summer window we had thrown a couple of bids in for a Boca striker called Jonathan Calleri, since linked with little known clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea. But it didn’t happen and we were finding ourselves more and more in need of a proper striker to give our frustrated midfielders someone to pick out. Usually in this position we end up signing a turkey, the likes of Billy Paynter and the ironically named Leon Best have all come in and picked up scarcely earnt wages but when you’re near the top of the league, you can pick from a better pool of player.
Every club with a scouting system wanted James Wilson. Here is a guy who has played Premier League football for the country’s biggest club, he’s playing for England at his age group and he’s looking like being a proper player. Jesse Lingard prospered during a loan spell in the 2013/14 season, surely Wilson would benefit from our new £30million training facilities and top of the range stadium. We never believed it would happen, until he was holding the shirt in his surprisingly muscly arms.
So we had signed him and managed to resist the desperate temptation to start him. Instead, he began the Birmingham game at the Amex on the bench, with everyone wanting him to come on. Eventually, with much fanfare and excitement, he did. It took him about 3 seconds to show his class with an outrageous piece of control and an effortless glide past a player lucky to list Manchester United in his previous clubs, Jonathan Spector. He so nearly crowned his cameo with a goal, played through by a player I won’t name for fear of other clubs becoming aware of him, Wilson made eye contact with ex-United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak, before sitting him down and rolling it past him only to see the ball bounce back off the post and into Kuszczak’s hands, who surprisingly held it.
The kid had begun, and in the next game against Charlton we went 2-0 down after 5 minutes and all of a sudden our ridiculous unbeaten run was in danger. Half time came without any change, but unlike Bayern Munich, who lost their unbeaten run that day to Borussia Mönchengladbach, we had James Wilson. He dribbled through the whole Charlton team, twice, and then stabbed past a goalkeeper who had no idea where he was. Another goal followed away at Derby when he snuck in front of a couple of ridiculously well paid Championship plodding centre backs to turn the ball past the bafflingly overrated Lee Grant in their goal. At this point, he was playing at full Wilson – he wanted the ball, he wanted to take people on and he wanted to score goals.
Away at QPR, we were tosh in the first half. Like many games at Old Trafford this season, the first half saw no hint of a goal until the second half when the Albion scored an over head kick (bet you’ve not heard of it, look it up, it’s so underwhelming for an overhead kick goal, Dale Stephens take a bow!) and then a second thanks to the ever unreliable Rob Green moving out of the way of a shot so weak it was almost stopped by a daisy growing out of the pitch at one point. All was going well but illness has struck. He made a mark on the Amex pitch before another home game on Sky, vomiting on the ground (twice!) and struggled in the game. He has struggled to make an impact of late, injuries to our creative players and wonderful gaffes from defenders (think Titus Bramble at Newcastle, pure comedy) have combined to dull our promotion charge. So we bought Anthony Knockaert, the guy who missed the penalty for Leicester in the play-offs at Watford which led to Troy Deeney scoring the winner for Watford about 3 seconds later.
But without doubt, Wilson is a talent with pace, touch and vision. He has started well, but what’s next?