STEVE BRUCE has told Callum Wilson his England opportunities will come if he maintains the form that has seen him make such a successful start to his Newcastle United career.

Wilson, who won the last of his four senior England caps in a European Championships qualifier with Bulgaria in October 2019, had been tipped for an international recall yesterday as Gareth Southgate named his squad for the forthcoming friendly with Republic of Ireland and Nations League matches against Belgium and Iceland.

However, despite Southampton’s Danny Ings being unavailable after undergoing surgery earlier this week, Southgate ignored Wilson’s claims and named Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tammy Abraham as his forwards.

Wilson has scored six goals in his first seven Premier League matches as a Newcastle player, and will hope to add to that tally when the Magpies travel to St Mary’s this evening to take on Southampton.

He looks back to his best after losing his way somewhat with Bournemouth last season, and Bruce is confident he will get another chance in an England shirt provided he maintains the standards he has set in the last couple of months.

“We (were) all desperately hoping that Callum (got) in the England squad because it would be great recognition for him and great recognition for Newcastle,” said the Magpies manager. “He must have put himself back in the conversation, although I have a hard enough time doing my job, let alone trying to do Gareth’s for him. He certainly must (have been) in with a shout because of the amount of goals he’s scored and the season he’s having.

“It still matters to play for your country, and probably even more so if you’re English. I go back 20 odd years ago, and I was there waiting with bated breath thinking, ‘This might be my opportunity’. It never came, mind. I never gave up hope though.

“I never stopped believing that one day you might get a call-up to play for your country. It’s the highest accolade you can have, and it would certainly be a great lift for Callum, and also for Newcastle if it happened in the future. To have a centre-forward as part of the England set-up would be fantastic, and hopefully Callum will get there.”

For the meantime, Wilson will have to focus on his domestic duties with Newcastle, with tonight’s game offering an opportunity to climb into the Premier League’s top four ahead of the rest of this weekend’s games.

Wilson scored both of Newcastle’s goals as they saw off Everton last weekend, and having persuaded Mike Ashley to shell out £20m to sign the 28-year-old earlier this summer, Bruce has been delighted with his impact in the first two months of the campaign, both on and off the field.

“The first thing I do when I'm signing a player is find out about their character, their personality and what they're like as a human being,” he said. “Everyone, to a man, said the same thing about Callum – ‘he’s an exceptionally good lad, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s a good pro and a great trainer. He wants to do well and leads from the front’.

“Then, you talk about his football ability. He’s big, strong, powerful, quick, but the most important thing for us at Newcastle is he’s got the ability to score a goal. If you analyse the goals that he’s got here, three of them have been within a yard (of the goalline).

“That is a unique ability, to be there at the right place at the right time, which you don’t coach. It’s a natural instinct where he wants to be there and score a goal. He’s had a really good start. Long may it continue because we desperately needed a goalscorer and someone who wanted to score.”

Newcastle will head into the international break after tonight’s game, and having claimed a 1-0 win at Southampton last season, Bruce is hoping for another positive result to round off what has been a satisfying start to the campaign.

“We’re only eight games in, but if we could get another win, it would reflect a very decent start,” he said. “We’re in the quarter-final of the (Carabao) Cup, and we’ve only lost twice in ten games. Quietly and efficiently, we keep getting on with our job and keep improving.”