WITH the start of the World Cup finals now less than a month away, Eddie Howe has claimed Callum Wilson would be the ‘perfect squad member’ if he was selected as part of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England line-up.

While Harry Kane remains firmly established as England’s number one striker, the identity of the back-up forwards that will be selected for Qatar remains a source of considerable debate.

Tammy Abraham failed to make a compelling case for his inclusion when he was selected during England’s ill-fated Nations League campaign in the summer, while Ivan Toney did not play a single minute despite being handed a maiden call-up to the squad for last month’s double-header with Italy and Germany.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin might have scored for Everton on Sunday, but he lacks match sharpness after being sidelined for the best part of half-a-year, so Wilson has to come into the equation despite his own injury issues.

Newcastle’s number nine is one of the top three English strikers in the Premier League in terms of his goals-per-minute ratio this season, having scored four goals in eight appearances, and while the most recent of his four international caps came back in October 2019, Howe feels he more than merits a place in the England squad that Southgate is due to name on November 10.

“I’m in a difficult position because I don’t want to put Gareth under unnecessary pressure or create headlines,” said the Magpies head coach. “That’s not my style as a manager to another manager. But I do back Callum, and I think Gareth does as well. I think he loves the player.

“Callum is an outstanding goalscorer, but he’s also an outstanding team-mate so, if he was to go to a major tournament, he’d support the players that are playing and wait for his opportunity to play.

“So, for me, he’s got the complete package, but that’s Gareth’s decision, and whatever decision he makes will be the right one.”

Wilson outlined his own World Cup hopes after his fourth goal of the campaign helped Newcastle claim the 2-1 win at Tottenham on Sunday that lifted them to fourth place in the table.

The 30-year-old has looked sharp since returning from a hamstring problem at the start of the month, and is confident his injury problems are now well and truly behind him.

He is understandably desperate to be part of Southgate’s squad in Qatar, with the forthcoming World Cup almost certain to be his last opportunity to be involved in a major tournament.

“I’m just focused on my performances, game in, game out, little by little – adding goals and all-round performances,” said Wilson. “Hopefully, that will catch the eye of the England manager.

“I did rehab from injury in Qatar a few years ago. They were building the stadiums (for the World Cup) and I did say I’d come back. It’s my dream to play at the World Cup.”

Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier seem certain to be part of Southgate’s final squad, with the pair having become established members of England’s first-team group in the last few years.

They both played pivotal roles in Sunday’s success at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Pope making crucial first-half saves from Kane and Son Heung-min when the scores were level and Trippier successfully containing both Ryan Sessegnon and Ivan Perisic down Spurs’ left-hand side.

The pair were signed after Amanda Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium completed their takeover at St James’ Park, but Howe insists it is no coincidence that a big chunk of the side that won at the weekend were already playing for Newcastle before the club changed hands.

The likes of Fabian Schar, Sean Longstaff, Joelinton, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron have all improved markedly under Howe, with their continued presence in the side providing an important degree of continuity.

“We didn’t want to change too much from last year because the dynamic of the squad from last year was very strong,” said Howe. “Our form was very good as well, so we didn’t feel in the summer that we needed to rip the squad apart.

“If anything, we just needed to enhance it with quality additions. Time will tell whether we’ve done that – I’m not saying we have just yet because the season is still very early in its formation. But at the moment, it looks good, and we still have key players missing who will make the squad even stronger. Once we get a full, fit squad, the future is exciting. I still don’t think we’re at 100 per cent full speed yet.”