Stoke City wasted no time finding a Nathan Collins replacement. After their 20-year-old star defender moved to Burnley for around £12 million, they brought in Watford centre-back Ben Wilmot for around £1.5 million.
Many Hornets supporters have been pleased with their transfer business thus far. However, the Wilmot departure for such a minuscule fee has left many members of the Vicarage Road faithful disappointed.
Ben Wilmot Has England International Team Potential
Impressive Club Career Thus Far
The 21-year-old started his career with Stevenage. He made his senior debut as a 17-year-old against Milton Keynes Dons in an EFL Trophy clash. He impressed that season in a 0-0 draw against Reading in the FA Cup. Wilmot made 10 successive starts in League Two, convincing Watford to secure his signature for £1.5 million. Watford making no profit on Wilmot’s services is another reason for discontent amongst Hornets supporters.
In his first season under contract with Watford, he played the first two matches (keeping clean sheets in both) in the Hornets’ improbable run to the FA Cup final. He spent time with Udinese in Serie A for the second portion of the 2018/19 campaign, making five appearances for the Italian side. He turned heads in the 2019/20 campaign while on loan with Swansea City. Despite injuries limiting him to 21 Championship appearances, he impressed whenever on the pitch.
Watford opted to keep him for their 2020/21 Championship campaign following their relegation from the Premier League. Under Vladimir Ivic, Wilmot was ever-present in the starting eleven. Despite playing three-quarters of the Club’s league matches under Ivic, where the Hornets’ defence impressed while their attack underwhelmed, he rarely saw the pitch under Xisco Munoz.
In the 16 matches before Watford clinched promotion, Wilmot only played 44 minutes. He was not in the squad the day the Hornets beat Millwall to secure their return to the Premier League, as Xisco preferred a centre-back partnership of Francisco Sierralta and William Troost-Ekong, with Christian Kabasele and Craig Cathcart as his favoured rotational options behind the starters.
With Xisco in charge of Watford in the Premier League, all parties knew Wilmot was not in the Club’s plans.
Centre-Back’s England International Foothold
Wilmot made his England youth debut in the March of 2018 at the Under 19 level. His Under 20 England international debut came seven months later. His Under 21 international debut – a level he has four appearances at, scoring once – came in the October of 2019. Wilmot’s most recent England youth appearance came on March 31st, 2021.
As the path to England’s senior international level frequently involves bringing players through their youth ranks, Wilmot already has a good reputation in the England camp. If he gets back to consistent first-team minutes with Stoke City and potentially a move to a bigger club further down the line, the England international coaches will already be familiar with his name and playing style.
Ben Wilmot Has International Team Traits
Who England’s manager will be in a few years is impossible to predict. However, most international managers prefer starting ball-playing centre-backs. Wilmot, who can also play as a defensive midfielder, is characterized by his willingness to take time on the ball and has the potential to be that ideal “ball-playing centre-back.”
His physicality and already-high football intelligence will only increase as time progresses. He is destined to play every Stoke City fixture he is fit for. Even if his career appears to have stalled a slight bit with a permanent departure to a second-tier side, do not be surprised to see him impress once more in the Championship ahead of what could very well prove to be an impressive career. He already proved he has the traits of an England international team player and has gotten recognition at the youth level. A few years down the line, if Stoke City proves to be the right fit, Wilmot has the capability to move onto much bigger things.
One other thing is for certain: if Collins is worth £12 million, then Wilmot is worth much more than just £1.5 million.