When Northern Ireland kicked off their Women’s Euro 2022 qualifying campaign with a 6-0 defeat to Norway at Seaview right at the end of August 2019 nobody could have foreseen what would evolve over the next 18 months.
Least of all Emily Wilson.
Now, with Northern Ireland on the brink of the finals and after a solid showing in the pre-tournament friendly against Belgium and encouraging words from manager Kenny Shiels, Wilson is in the frame to complete a whirlwind rise by stepping onto one of the biggest stages in the game – against Norway.
When her A Level studies at Parkhall College took priority over football Wilson even took a step back from playing for Crusaders Strikers and international football was nothing more than a potential future aim.
“I wasn’t even at the game, I was at home, probably studying for my A Levels,” said Wilson.
“I took a break for a year. I was focusing, I was studying my A Levels and I wanted to prioritise them for that year, because they were obviously important to me and for my future.
“I came back into Crusaders Strikers and focused on the club and then Kenny called me in for a squad.
“It’s been brilliant, the time has flown in and it feels like yesterday. What the girls have achieved since two years ago, it’s been amazing, it’s been a great experience.
“The staff have really helped all of us and helped me progress as a player. So I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Due to turn 21 next month, Wilson’s progress has largely ran parallel to the team over the last two years, making her debut when sensationally handed a start when Simone Magill was out injured for the final two crucial group games against Belarus and the Faroe Islands.
She has had to be patient while WSL star Magill has carried the responsibility for carrying the threat up front, mostly as a lone striker, but both played the full second half in that 4-0 defeat to Belgium and at the very least that will have given Shiels some food for thought.
“It was a good experience to get on the pitch in Belgium, play more minute and get a feel for the ball, which was nice. Obviously, it wasn’t the result we wanted, but I think the whole team took a lot of positives from that and things that we can work on.
“It was good preparation for this tournament.
“After matches, Kenny would sit us down and have a team meeting and show what you did well, or maybe what you need to work on or whatever.
“It’s positive feedback, which is nice to hear.
“They’ll reward you with time on the pitch if you work hard and you are playing well and they tell us just to be positive when you’re on the ball.”