Edward Wilkinson is a winger/striker who plays for Christchurch United in the New Zealand National League. Wilkinson burst onto the scene this season, having only played a small number of minutes in New Zealand’s top flight in 2021. He’s so obscure I’m not even 100% sure of his exact age. I’m pretty sure he’s 22. Christchurch United used to have player profiles for their 2021 squad up on their website and those listed Wilkinson as 21, though did not list a date of birth. He also has a Hudl page which states that he graduated high school in 2018. Transfermarkt lists him as playing for Otago University’s team from 2019-2021, consistent with completing a three-year program at a New Zealand university. So he’s most likely 22. Wilkinson has never played for New Zealand at any age group, at least his Transfermarkt page doesn’t list it if he has. So, why am I so interested in this seemingly obscure New Zealander? Well, he managed a goal every 67 minutes in the New Zealand Southern League and then averaged a goal contribution every 73 minutes in the National league phase, despite Christchurch United generally floundering.
Wilkinson is a speedy player who likes to run at defences, is two-footed, and shoots a lot. This is not a profile that you would normally find in a technically amateur league. He is best when operating in wide areas and cutting inside. He generates a ton of quality shots by using his attacking qualities. The departure of Oceania legend Sanni Issa has forced Wilkinson into a centre-forward role and it’s obvious that he is not comfortable there. He often ends up in wide areas anyway and he does not have the off-the-ball instincts necessary to be an effective striker. He’s much more comfortable starting a move by carrying the ball than he is putting home one touch finishes. Defensively, Wilkinson works extremely hard. He often tracks back to make defensive interventions and does not back out of a challenge despite being quite small. This makes Wilkinson one of the driving forces of Christchurch’s game on both sides of the ball. Christchurch United struggled to translate their southern league success to the national league. They finished 8th out of 10 teams. But despite this Wilkinson has been able to keep pace, in terms of scoring, with the players on the top teams in the league and put in a solid shift defensively. This is why I believe he can take a step up, despite being a late bloomer.
I am convinced Wilkinson is better than at least a couple of the attackers on the Wellington Phoenix. But if they aren’t going to sign him then he could be a really good pickup for teams of a similar level. We have seen quite a lot of A-League players make the move to the Scottish Premiership because they are relatively cheap and face few language or cultural barriers. One New Zealand standout, Alex Grieve, made the move to St Mirren last year, so perhaps a low-level SPL team or Scottish Championship team looking to make a push for promotion would make sense for Wilkinson.