The news today of Paul Wilson’s passing came as a tremendous shock and causes great sorrow for all of us who saw him play.
Paul was one of Celtic’s legendary Quality Street Gang alongside such luminaries as Danny McGrain, Kenny Dalglish and David Hay. Having spoken with one of the QSG recently I asked him if he thought back then that Dalglish would develop into the player he would become in later years. His reply was that he believed that Paul Wilson was actually the best prospect of them all in that formative, early period of the late 1960’s.
Paul made his Celtic debut in 1970, however it wasn’t until the 1973/74 season that he really made his mark by helping Celtic to the domestic league and cup double and to reach the 1974 European Cup semi finals against Atletico Madrid.
In 1974/75 he created a marvellous record when he scored in four Hampden cup finals in the same season. The finals were:
1974 Drybrough Cup Rangers 2-2 (4-2 penalties) – 1 goal
1974 League Cup Hibs 6-3 – 1 goal
1975 Scottish Cup Airdrie 3-1 – 2 goals
1975 Glasgow Cup Rangers 2-2 – 2 goals
These terrific performances earned Paul his only Scottish cap in 1975 when he played in Valencia during a respectable 1-1 draw with Spain.
Probably the highlight of his Celtic career came in May 1975 when he scored twice in the Scottish Cup final against Airdrie. Paul showed great courage in playing that day, the final coming only days after his mother had sadly passed away.
Paul is fondly remembered by Celtic fans of that era as a great player. Blessed with pace and possessing a shot in either foot, Paul was instrumental in Celtic’s trophy successes in the mid to late 1970’s. Sadly, Paul often suffered from an element of racism from the terraces and the 1970’s were far from the inclusive environment we live in today. No one in the media even cared to mention it back then never mind condemn it.
Happily, Paul was able to overcome the bile from certain quarters and he was one of a select band of players who managed to reserve his best form for games against Rangers which made him tremendously popular in the eyes of the supporters.
On a personal level Paul was the first Celtic player I ever met in 1974 and I still remember how impressive he looked in his smart, expensive three piece suit in front of the eight year old me and I hold that memory dear.
By 1980 Paul had left Celtic and after spells with Motherwell and Partick Thistle he joined the ranks of junior football. That August I watched Paul, Jimmy Johnstone and ex Ranger, Johnny Hamilton, play at St Anthony’s juniors for Blantyre Celtic. The highlight of the game was Paul’s goal from 35 yards and it was imminently clear he should still have been playing senior football at that time.
Paul Wilson has left Celtic fans a whole plethora of happy memories.
The thoughts and prayers of every Celtic fan are with the Wilson family at this difficult time.
May eternal light shine upon him.