Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson says “hunger and desire” drove him to escape non-league football and win an England call-up for the first time.
Wilson, 26, has made Gareth Southgate’s squad for Thursday’s friendly against the United States and Sunday’s Nations League match against Croatia.
Six years ago, while at Coventry, he played three games on loan in the Conference for Tamworth, scoring once.
“It was a bit surreal and put football into perspective,” said Wilson.
“You turn up for a team like that [Tamworth] and players are coming in in their work overalls and work vans, coming from a painting job that they had just finished.
“It showed me that I did not want to be at that level throughout my career. I wanted to make more of myself.
“It gave me the hunger and desire to impress my club manager at the time and then eventually go back to my home club and play.”
‘I missed the birth of my second child’
Wilson began his professional career at Coventry, his home city, before a 2014 move to Bournemouth, for whom he has scored 50 goals in 128 games, including seven this season.
In just over four years on the south coast, Wilson has spent significant time on the sidelines after injuring both his right and left knee in separate incidents, but was lifted by a message from former England and Newcastle United captain Alan Shearer.
Wilson told BBC Radio 5 live: “When I first did my anterior cruciate ligament, Alan Shearer texted me – a legend – so to receive a text from him, I was in shock at the time.
“Before the injury, he gave me a bit of stick on Match of the Day for missing a few chances but that is what he is there for and he has been very supportive.
“He congratulated me, wished me well and told me not to score too many against Newcastle, which unfortunately I did.”
During the rehabilitation of his second knee injury, Wilson spent time in Qatar, as well as the USA, where he went to see reconditioning specialist Bill Knowles.
Wilson added: “When I had my second injury, he [Knowles] was the guy I went to to get me back into the running phase. We did a lot of sprint work and spent two weeks with him.
“I actually missed the birth of my second child being out there, so that shows the sacrifices I made to get to this point.”