His signing from Dundee Utd was hailed as a coup, Wilson being viewed as one of the brightest prospects in the Scottish game and a player who seemed set for a great future at both club and international level. In his early days he even demonstrated a willingness to play at left back when the occasion demanded and it was this unselfish attitude which first brought a more critical light on him when he was thoroughly abused by Daniel Cousin at Celtic Park in a game in which the FOD triumphed and he was badly at fault with one of the goals. In fact the first time I saw the term ‘rag-dolled’ it was applied to his treatment at the hands of the big Rangers striker.
He suffered a debilitating series of injuries to his foot and his knee, which required surgery, and if we are to believe what we read in the papers (sic), this remains a problem for the likeable Celt even as his career appears to be getting back on track.
He would, when selected, play more or less competently, but there was always a feeling – particularly against the huns – that he would be seen as a weak link and targeted by big ugly forwards as their ever so subtle mid-fielders would launch exocets in his direction.
In time his knee injuries became a recurring problem and he disappeared from the first team picture. As far as most of us were concerned, even those of us who held him in some regard, he was a busted flush as a Celtic player, and yet we always knew that was a real Tim.
Opportunity knocks at strange times and the importance for any one is to take advantage of the chance when it comes.
When Cha scored his goal against St. Johnstone to pull our irons out of the fire, few could have foreseen what the next weeks and months held, not just for Celtic, but for the forgotten man of Parkhead.
Pressed into service at his nemesis, he made a strong contribution to the New Year victory, and since there was apparently no one else for Neil to turn to, it being rumoured that Efrain had thrown his toys out of the pram and was in a footballing sense working to rule, Mark Wilson became a regular choice at right back.
From being a player that many saw as a weak link he grew in stature with each passing game, even adding goals to his repertoire, at Aberdeen, Tannadice and most gloriously his wonder goal against the Dark Side in the cup quarter final replay! (To be fair if Sasha had not got his head in the way of the first shot, it would have been a wonder goal by anyone’s standards.)
It was clear that few players took more joy from playing in a winning Celtic side than Mark. If it is true that there is always a need for a core of Tims in the Celtic team, Mark Wilson fulfils that role to a ‘T’. He is no mercenary and while he would never claim to be the outstanding player in this side, he does hold down his place on merit and makes a valid contribution to the team week in and week out.
Perhaps Mark is testament to the old maxim that everything comes to those who wait, but I doubt if even he expected to end this season as the right back in a cup winning side who but for the rub of the green and a degree of inexperience would have won the title as well.
He earned his extension to his contract and given a free run from injury he is young enough to contend for a first team slot for several years. It is hard to escape the conclusion that he realises that he has been given an unexpected second chance and is determined to make the most of it.
That he has even made the list of the top ten players of the year would have seemed unlikely six months ago, but he is there on merit, and if, as is often the case, that pro-footballers reach their peak in the years 26-32, he hopefully will mature even more and become the sort of reliable player that all teams need.
In order for stars to shine, every team needs journeymen pros. A journey man is someone who has learned his trade and is practising it to a professional level. Mark Wilson is, to my eyes, such a player and he will hopefully be a reliable member of our squad for years to come.
His membership of Timdom was fully paid up, even before his re-emergence from the doldrums, but once again he is living the dream, and God willing he will go on from here to even greater success in the Hoops of white and green.