Harry Wilson completed his move from Liverpool to Fulham last weekend, ending a 16-year association with the Anfield club. Still only 24 years of age, it was back in October 2013 that he became Cymru's youngest-ever senior international, and the versatile attacking winger is now ready for the next stage of his career.
Despite impressing during a series of loan spells, particularly at Hull City, Derby County, Bournemouth and most-recently Cardiff City, opportunities at Liverpool remained slim for Wilson, and during his time at the club he was restricted to making just two cup appearances. However, he has established himself as an integral part of the current Cymru squad, and is set to play a key role as 2022 World Cup qualifying returns in September.
It was under former Cymru manager Chris Coleman that Wilson made his senior international debut at just 16 years and 207 days, beating the previous record held by Gareth Bale by 108 days. Wilson replaced Hal Robson-Kanu in the closing moments of the World Cup qualifier against Belgium, with Aaron Ramsey scoring the equaliser in the 1-1 draw shortly after his introduction.
It proved to be a valuable substitution for Wilson's grandfather, Peter Edwards, who put down a £50 bet at 2500/1 when Wilson was just 18-months old that he would play for Cymru and subsequently scooped £125,000 as a result of his belief in his grandson. “I was shattered because I had to wait for 85, 86 minutes before he came on and I was panicking because they'd already substituted twice,” said Edwards to the BBC at the time. “But when he came on I had another glass of wine. (I was) a proud granddad first for sure.”
However, Wilson then returned to the intermediate teams and would have to wait almost five years until he would represent the senior side again. Making the most of his next opportunity, Wilson scored his first international goal on his first start in the 6-0 win over China in Nanning in March 2018. Coinciding with his 21st birthday, his performance ensured that he would remain with the senior squad moving forward.
Opportunities at EURO 2020 were limited for Wilson as he came off the bench in three of Cymru's four games, and was shown a straight red card in the final moments of the 4-0 defeat to Denmark in the round of 16 that brought Cymru's involvement in the tournament to an end. It was a frustrating experience for Wilson, but having scored a memorable goal against Belgium in the World Cup qualifier back in March, he will be keen to make a positive impression when the campaign resumes in September.
Having gained a wealth of Premier League and Championship experience during his loan spells, Wilson's move to Fulham ends the uncertainty that was surrounding his final years at Liverpool, and the frustration of not being able to work his way into manager Jürgen Klopp's plans will pass as he focuses on this next chapter in his club career.
Impressing at Cardiff City last season, Wilson highlighted his frustration earlier this year. “It's always been my aim to get into the Liverpool team,” he explained. “I've always been confident in my ability. I feel I'm good enough to be in that squad and I'd like to think I could go in there and add something different. But that's out of my hands. That's up to the manager there to make those decisions, but if it's not with Liverpool, I'm determined to get a move. I feel I deserve to play at the highest level I can.”
Although Wilson has proven himself to be something of a free-kick specialist, there is much more to his game. With his pace and finishing ability, combined with his versatility to play across the forward line, Wilson has played an important role for Cymru during the UEFA Nations League campaigns in particular. In addition to his goals against China and Belgium, Wilson has also been on the score-sheet against the Republic of Ireland, Azerbaijan and Finland in the colours of his country.
A popular figure with the Red Wall, Wilson has remained close to his north Wales roots. A regular supporter of Corwen FC, he has helped the club generate some much-needed funds during the last few years. Passionate in his desire to represent his country at the highest-level, an appearance at the World Cup next year would be another significant milestone, and his confidence and belief in his own ability will be a key element in his success at Fulham this coming season.