Facing the group’s minnows Andorra in their 2017 European Championship qualification opener promises to provide the Irish with an ideal gateway to get some early points on the board in a testing pool that includes Italy and Serbia.
Londoner Wilkinson was integrated into Noel King’s squad towards the end of the last campaign, making his first start last September in Germany, but this new chapter presents an opportunity to establish himself as the leading striker in the team.
The 20-year-old’s strides at club level suggest he’s plenty to offer. Bolton swooped for the striker in 2013 while he was still breaking into the Millwall reserves and he featured for the Trotters at Anfield in January’s FA Cup third round stalemate against Liverpool.
He replaced veteran Heskey in that tie, aware the presence of that level of experience would limit his exposure in the Championship this term.
That’s why he took the decision to join League One outfit Oldham Athletic on loan, for whom he scored the winning goal at Crewe Alexandra last weekend.
His manager, Armagh-born Neil Lennon, had some parting words of encouragement for his youngster when he headed down a tier.
The gaffer says he wants me to be one for the future,” said the forward.
“He’s asked me to base myself on Harry Kane and I should have no problems getting into the first team.
“At the moment, Bolton have a lot of experienced strikers like Emile Heskey, Craig Davies and Eidur Gudjohnsen, so it was best to move on loan for now.
“To be fair, when Heskey joined Bolton earlier in the season, he was of great help to me. Just little tips in training sessions were brilliant.”
King last night drafted West Ham United striker Sean Maguire into his panel after Matt Hamilton was forced to withdraw due to a stomach bug.
“This is a game we are expected to win but it won’t be all-out attack,” reasoned Ireland manager Noel King. “We may have to be patient.”
I Lawlor (Manchester City); A Browne (Preston NE), L Desmond (St Patrick’s Ath), T Hoban (Watford), S Kavanagh (Fulham); G Rea (Brighton), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers); C O’Dowda (Oxford United), K McEvoy (Tottenham Hotspur), S Goodwin (Brighton); C Wilkinson (Bolton Wanderers).