Kevin Wilson Interview.

Kevin Wilson was born on April 18th, 1961 in Banbury.  He had a long career which saw him score 200 goals in 727 total appearances at club level  in several positions, plus 42 caps for Northern Ireland for whom he scored 6 goals. Kevin takes up the story of his early career..

" I played for Rushcote Sports as a 16 year old then for Banbury United, my home town club, as a 17 year old and was signed by Sheffield United on a 3 years contract however after 3 reserve games and 2 goals I had a knee problem.  I returned to Banbury and after getting the all clear on my knee  got a trial game at Derby County and scored a hat trick playing against the likes of David Webb, Kevin Hector and Steve Buckley. I played 131 games and scored 41 goals for them. One of the managers I played under there was Arthur Cox who was a great man manager" 

"I left Derby in January 1985 and signed for Ipswich Town (£100,000 transfer fee) leaving the 3rd Division for the 1st Division and I scored a goal against Sunderland to keep us up. Then came a move to Chelsea which was a big step up in my career  (£335,000 transfer fee) signed by John Hollins and I took on board what everyone told me. I had Five and a half years there. We were relegated from Div 1 but bounced right back the following season (1989-90). I remember playing in Chelsea's 7-0 win at Fellows Park than season in which Gordan Durie scored five."  Kevin also scored in that game, the 4th, and the  Sporting Star  wrote, ' Gordon Durie made a good break down the right and Kevin Wilson, in acres of space, collected the centre and calmly fired in a low right foot shot past Fred Barber.'  Saddlers fans may also recall the two heavy defeats against Chelsea in the 1990-1 FL Cup where Chelsea hammered Walsall 5-0 at Bescot and 4-1 at Stamford Bridge.  In the home leg Kevin got Chelsea's 3rd goal on 43 mins after Ron Green could only parry a shot and in the 77th min claimed his second after hitting the bar. Kevin was also in the side that won the Full Members Cup against Middlesbrough 1-0 in 1990. 

"My next move was Notts County  (March, 1992,  £225,000 transfer fee)  under Neil Warnock which was interesting.  It was more of a family decision to return to the area but looking back was not my best move.  He had me playing at both right back and left back and by the end of my contract I wondered if it was time to finish.  However there was a call from Paul Taylor to come to Walsall as player coach under Kenny Hibbitt. It may have been a bit of a gamble for him but the move was good for Walsall FC and me.   Walsall already had some good players like Kyle Lightbourne, Martin O'Connor, Chris Marsh, Jimmy Walker  etc  and there were decent signings made like Charlie Palmer, who had been with me at Notts County and Derby plus the likes of Colin Gibson.  Kenny Hibbitt lost his job but he was a good guy." 

In the interim period between Kenny Hibbitt's dismissal and the appointment of Chis Nicholl, Kevin and Paul took charge of team affairs.  Kevin recalls Chris's comment to him on arrival, "I tried to sign you at Southampton. I like you. I expect you to be a big thing the way I want you to play. Right, I got promoted with every team I played for in my first year.  If you don't think you can hack it then walk out the door!"  

"Chris Nicholl set his teams up well he was quite innovative really he wanted me to play the 10  Kyle Lightbourne the 9 and have the likes of Scott Houghton ,Marshy or Martin O'Connor slightly behind  going forward. A  system that is now common place in the modern game. The partnership between 'Killer' and myself was fantastic and he deserved his chance to go on to bigger and better things." In their first season they scored 48 , their second 42 and their final season 34 the most prolific in Bescot's 30 year history.  He recalled the final week of that 94-5 season, "We went up to Scarborough and had to play on the Tuesday as police wouldn't let any games play on Bank Holidays in seaside towns because of previous trouble  and did what we had to do there with a 2-1 win in which I scored the winner and we stayed in a hotel before travelling over to Bury where we only needed a point to be promoted. I remember a fantastic save by Jimmy Walker towards the end to keep it 0-0.  It was a big ask for 3rd place Chesterfield as we had a superior goal difference going in to the final games."

"We did well enough in our two seasons under Chris Nicholl in the 3rd division. Chris was developing some great young talent Michael Ricketts,   Platty, Wayne Thomas, Ropes, Keatesy etc and when he left in 1997 I Wanted the manager's job at Walsall and thought I'd be good for them as I knew and helped coach the players but they went for Jan Sorensen instead. Its my one of my biggest regrets that I didn't get that job and not meaning any disrespect I knew I'd done my time at Walsall."

Kevin stressed the importance and good jobs that Jeff Bonser and Paul Taylor did for Walsall over the years. Regarding owner Jeff Bonser he noted, " He did a great job sticking through thick and thin. Paul found some right gems in bringing players in. He deserves applause because the budget at Walsall is not the biggest and Walsall have to compete with the likes of Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Wolves and Birmingham etc for catchment"

I got offered a player / assistant manager role at Northampton Town with Ian Atkins. We had been together as players at Ipswich Town. and I didn't play too many games. We missed out in the play off final losing to Grimsby 1-0 however in the semi final first leg we lost 3-1 at Bristol Rovers and over  the tannoy the guy was announcing final tickets. We didn't have to say a lot in our chat before hand and the players worked their socks off and won 3-0 with big John Gayle playing his part.  He was a gentle giant".

" in my first year as manager we were promoted thanks to a 2-1 win at Torquay on the last day.. In my second year in charge we found it a bit harder and in my third we didn't have the best of starts and we all know what happens then. Since then I've managed several  non league clubs and at Ilkeston Town with Darren Caskey and then Steve Chettle we developed 8 or 9 players who went to Conference level or beyond most notably Che Adams."

Kevin as been back to Bescot several times as a guest on matchdays and recently attended the Mick Kearns tribute night.

He signed off with a message for Saddlers  fans..... " I would like to thank Walsall fans for all the support they gave me in my time there. We had some good times."

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