Harry Wilson has a big final coming up. It will require concentration, organisational skills and trust in those around him. At least until he gets through customs.
“I’m going to go to the Champions League final with my mates,” the 22-year-old says. “I’ve got tickets through the club, I’m taking a couple of my friends and it will be great. I stood in the Anfield Road end for the Barcelona game and the atmosphere was unbelievable. Hopefully Madrid will be just as special. The ideal scenario will be: win Monday, celebrate Tuesday, then fly out to Madrid and watch Liverpool lift the European Cup.”
Correction: Harry Wilson has two big finals coming up. The first being the Championship play-off final at Wembley. He may have been on Liverpool’s books since the age of eight, but his breakthrough season has come this year with Derby County. The Welshman has scored 16 goals in 39 league starts, playing in a number of different positions. Alongside fellow loanees Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, Wilson has provided the edge that has taken a team that were supposedly in transition to the brink of the Premier League. Win against Aston Villa and the celebrations might go on a bit beyond Tuesday.
“It’s been a good season for me,” he says. “It didn’t really start as I wanted it to – a little bit slow and then I picked up an injury – but scoring that first goal when I came back gave me the confidence to kick on. Like all seasons there’s been ups and downs but towards the end I feel we really clicked and started playing some good stuff. We scored a lot of goals as a team and we’re where we deserve to be.”
Wilson scored his first goal against Brentford in late September, finishing off a breakaway he started from his position on the left wing. His latest goal came against Leeds at Elland Road, in the play-off semi‑final second leg. It was a penalty with no shortage of pressure attached to it but it was tucked calmly into the corner . In that match, Wilson was playing right wing. He says the biggest development he has made, however, came during a challenging period in the middle of winter, when his manager, Frank Lampard, asked him to play central midfield for the first time in his career.
“When you’re playing week in, week out, you’re feeling fit, you feel strong, that’s what you want. You find a rhythm, if you like. So I feel my game has come on a lot and I think the manager is a massive part of that,” Wilson says of Lampard. “I think when your manager is such a legend in the game, you’ve got to take everything you can off him, whether it’s something to improve on or it’s a pat on the back.
“When we had a few injuries in central midfield he popped me in there. It’s a position I’ve never played before but he said he could see me in there. It was the pointers he had for me, more off the ball than on the ball. On the ball, I believe in the quality I’ve got. Off the ball, he helped me to plug those gaps and work out what to do in that role. To get tips off a manager who has had the career he had in central midfield means a lot.”
Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Wilson believes his new adaptability will stand him in good stead as he looks to progress his career. Like all good young pros he will not look beyond the next game when talking about his own future, but it is clear he hopes still to return to Liverpool and make the grade.
“It is only going to benefit me because now I don’t necessarily play on the wing; I play either side, No 10, central midfield,” says Wilson. “There is a loan guy called Jools [Julian Ward]; I am in touch with him and he reports back to the manager. I have had a few texts off [Jürgen Klopp]. It’s good to know you are not being forgotten. I wanted to come to a good football team so I could showcase what I could do. Hopefully the manager has seen the games on TV and I’ve made a good impression. I’ll go back there pre-season; what happens from there I don’t know.”
What happens at Wembley is as yet unwritten, too, and the outcome of this single match will have a disproportionate outcome, not just on the careers of individual players but on the two clubs contesting the final. If all the potential consequences mean this game carries extra pressure, however, it is certainly not weighing heavily on Wilson.
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“The big stadiums, sold-out crowds and games with massive things riding on them; as players these are games you want to be playing in,” he says with a smile. “It’s a chance to write your name in the history books.”