‘I Wanted Something That Stimulates Me In A Different Way’
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On a recent morning before training, Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson couldn’t resist telling his teammates about the latest artwork in his burgeoning collection.

Art appreciation is spreading through the squad. Inspired by Wilson, teammates Joe Willock and Isaac Hayden have bought their own works.

“I was sometimes so excited about a piece I’d bought that you have a conversation around the breakfast table and then they’re asking questions about it,” Wilson tells me in an exclusive interview.

“I was just talking about my piece and they kind of pricked up their ears and went ‘oh, actually I might get a piece of artwork’. And it had a bit of a domino effect.”

It was Girl with Balloon, a mural from British street artist Banksy, that first caught the attention of Wilson. He asked his agent to put him in touch with an advisor who could provide a crash course in the world of art investment.

“At first for me it was solely about investment. It was all about trying to get a piece that over the years will grow financially. And then it became about finding a piece I actually liked, that I would hang on the wall,” Wilson says.

“Sometimes you buy a piece because you like it. Sometimes it makes so much sense to purchase because it’s only going one way and could double or triple (in value).”

Wilson says he is “no art expert” but is enjoying “dipping my toe in” the industry. He bought his first piece, by “graffiti spaghetti” artist Sam Cox, aka Mr Doodle, about 18 months ago.

Since then, he has added works by renowned British artists including Banksy, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Philip Colbert. The works are currently in storage while Wilson lives in a rental house.

The Hirst, called St Paul’s, is a brightly colored kaleidoscopic style that Wilson describes as “like a butterfly”.

“The detail of it was beautiful. And I thought to myself, ‘I can see this long term being somewhere in my house,'” he says.

His favorite piece is Choose Your Weapon, by Banksy.

“It’s a figure, a man standing with his hood up. It kind of takes me back when I see it, to how I was when I was a youngster. Messing around on the streets and stuff like that,” Wilson says.

“So it’s almost a reflection of my character back in the day really.”

Professional soccer players are investing in everything from virtual reality platforms to GPS data companies, but it is rare to hear a player discussing art investments.

“Yes, you can get a few properties that are good investments. Yes, you can buy a few watches that are good investments. But I wanted something different, that stimulates me in a different way,” Wilson says.

“It was about getting put in front of somebody who knew what they were talking about and knew how big the industry is and educating me. From that point, I’ve taken a little bit of a liking to it and started adding pieces to the collection slowly.”

Wilson has seen how fragile a career as an elite sportsperson can be. He has suffered serious injuries and, as an 18-year-old, was sent on loan to non-league club Tamworth where he played alongside semi-professionals.

He now plans for the “worst case scenario” with his financial advisor.

“We plan as if football could end tomorrow, basically. It’s important to have a source of income coming in for when you do finish because you’re a long time retired.”

On the pitch, Wilson, 30, is eyeing a return to international soccer. He has four England caps, scoring once, and was last named in a squad in 2019. With the World Cup starting in November, he will do all he can to be there.

“I’m in a position where I’ve just got fit, I’m going to work hard over the summer and come back next season firing. That’s all I can do,” he says.

“I can only affect what I can control. And if it’s good enough … so be it. If not, at least I can say I’ve given it everything I had.

“I think this World Cup would probably be more special to me than any other.”

Wilson previously spent time in Qatar, which is hosting this year’s World Cup, in 2017. He was “in a bit of a bad place” after suffering a serious knee injury and underwent rehabilitation at the Aspire Academy. Next door to the academy, one of the stadiums for the tournament was being built.

“I said to (the physio), ‘I’ll come back and play in this stadium’. He said, ‘Callum, honestly I hope you do’,” Wilson says.

“This was at a point where I couldn’t even walk, I was coming off my crutches. People were saying when you come back from an injury like this it’s hit and miss whether you’re the same player and so on. And then there’s me saying ‘I’m going to come back and play in this stadium in the World Cup.’ Yet I’d never played for England before. So that’s the kind of mentality I had.

“It’s closer than ever now. We’ll see what happens. You might see me there, who knows?”

Wilson goes into Newcastle’s final match of the season tomorrow, at Burnley, on a high. On Monday night he captained the team and put in a man-of-the-match performance as Newcastle beat Arsenal 2-0.

It was Wilson’s first start in 2022 after missing four months with a calf injury. Next season is a blank canvas.

“I have become resilient. Over the years I’ve had many setbacks unfortunately but it’s part of the game, I guess,” he says.

“It can be a long road sometimes. But they often lead to beautiful destinations.”

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