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  • 7-1 GOAL HERO, SAMMY WILSON, PASSES AWAY

    7-1 GOAL HERO, SAMMY WILSON, PASSES AWAY

    By: Joe Sullivan on 10 Nov, 2014 15:21

  • EVERYONE at Celtic Park was saddened to hear of the death of Sammy Wilson at the weekend.

    Sammy was the scorer of the first goal in the 7-1 League Cup final win over Rangers in 1957.

    He passed away on Saturday at the age of 83 and following scoring 46 goals in 70 Celtic games between 1957 and 1959, he moved down south before returning to Scotland and significantly raising the profile of the Highland League in spotting players there.

    As recently as the Inverness Caley Thistle match on November 1, we had former Celt Roddy MacDonald featured in the matchday programme and he was singing the praises of the man who delivered him to Celtic.

    MacDonald helped blaze a trail for aspiring footballers from the Highlands – and he believes he has Celtic’s Hampden hero Sammy Wilson to thank for making it possible for him and many others.

    Few players were picked up by the professional clubs in his part of the country prior to his era but the arrival of Wilson in the area opened up a pathway to the big time.

    After finishing his career in the Highlands at Brora Rangers, Wilson stayed in the region, coaching youngsters and managing a number of local teams. He also became a talent-spotter for the professional clubs.

    Having quickly identified MacDonald as someone capable of making it in the big time, Wilson brought the stopper to Brora Rangers and deployed him up front. He believed goals would garner greater attention on his young protégé and so it proved.

    Wilson secured MacDonald a trial at Celtic and his performances prompted Jock Stein and Sean Fallon to head up the A9 and visit the family home to secure his signature.

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    MacDonald said: “Just prior to coming down to Celtic, it was really difficult for any player of potential to get noticed in the Highlands. I was fortunate Sammy Wilson came up when I was 14-15 and he started doing some coaching for the youth players in the area.

    “He was coaching at Ross County’s ground on a Sunday mornings for all the young ones and we used to show up there. He started up a couple of teams and I ended up playing for him in the local team. He then set up Easter Ross, winning the league and cup, before progressing on to Brora, where he took me to play as a centre-forward.

    He added: “If Sammy hadn’t been up there, it would have been impossible for me to get picked up or noticed. He had a great career and was a cracking player. He played for Celtic for a few years, including the 7-1 game when Celtic beat Rangers.

    “He even played for the Easter Ross team that I played in and you could still see he had great ability. He had the contacts and it was a case of he would see how I was developing and then he would make people aware down the road. I had a few trials with teams but that was all to give me experience as I believe he had Celtic lined up to take me down when the time was right. I don’t think I would have got my move to Celtic if it wasn’t for him.”

    Sammy Wilson aso proved to be an influence on other players. MacDonald said: “I know when I was younger there was nobody else up there with his experience, who was giving youth a chance and to attract bigger clubs down south to look at players but he had plenty of contacts that way.

    “Eventually players did get noticed and picked up. There was Eric Black and Bryan Gunn but you also had Donald Park who was brought up in Fort William and played in the Highland League.

    “Sammy Wilson helped open doors. You felt there was chance if you had skill, ability and the potential to do well. And it did give people a lot of encouragement when myself and other players were getting an opportunity.

    “It gave everybody a lift – we weren’t just a backdrop somewhere that never got noticed. Today, players are getting a chance up there. If they play for the local sides then they can get played against the big teams from down south and if they do well, they can take that as a stepping stone.”

    The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Celtic Park are with the family and friends of Sammy Wilson at this sad time.

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