Ian Wilson

Former Player Remembers: Ian Wilson

Scotland international Ian Wilson played over 300 games for Leicester City between 1979 and 1987, most of them in the top-flight.
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He then moved to league champions Everton, for whom he appeared in the 1989 FA Cup Final. Recently, Ian spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career.

“When I was playing part-time for Elgin City, a semi-professional club, I was also studying Business Studies at college,” be began.

“A few clubs were looking at me and Leicester took a chance on me. Jock [Wallace], who was renowned for taking Scots to Leicester, paid £30,000 for me. Elgin were absolutely delighted!

“There were many Scots at Leicester and I settled in well. My debut was a League Cup tie against Rotherham.

“I was pleased with the number of appearances I made that first season.

“We were playing well and went up as champions of the old Second Division after winning the last match of the season with a Larry May goal at Orient.

“I have great memories of the open-top bus tour through Leicester with all the crowds coming out to see us. It was fabulous!

“We struggled in the top division the next season, but we beat Liverpool twice. They were European champions that season. At home we beat them 2-0. Andy Peake scored a great goal... a screamer!   

In January we had no chance. It didn’t look like we were going to be anywhere near it. Then we went on an unbeaten run from about mid-February until the end of the season.

Ian Wilson

“Nobody expected us to get anything at Anfield. They hadn’t lost at home for 85 games. We won 2-1! We went 1-0 down when Alan Young, back defending, scored an own goal.  

“Their team had [Ian] Rush, [Kenny] Dalglish, [Graeme] Souness and [Alan] Hansen! All top international players. It was a fabulous achievement to win there.

“The next season we were back in the Second Division. We had a fantastic run in the FA Cup. I scored an own goal in the semi-final against Spurs.

“For the first time in about 15 years, Mark [Wallington] came off his line when I passed back to him. Also, Tommy Williams broke his leg.

“It wasn’t to be. Spurs had some top players like [Osvaldo] Ardiles, [Glenn] Hoddle and [Garth] Crooks. Losing was a huge disappointment.

“Soon afterwards, big Jock got other options and left the Club. That’s when Gordon [Milne], a great friend of mine, took over.”

Gordon Milne led Leicester City to promotion in his first season.

“We had a late run that season,” Ian remembers. “In January we had no chance. It didn’t look like we were going to be anywhere near it.

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Ian Wilson
Ian Wilson

Wilson played for Leicester City between 1979 and 1987.

“Then we went on an unbeaten run from about mid-February until the end of the season.”

Five matches from the end of the season, Ian scored an absolutely crucial goal in a 1-0 victory at Craven Cottage against promotion favourites Fulham.

“They were about three or four points clear of us,” he added. “Had they beaten us that would pretty much have been it. We played well and beat them. It put us right back in it.”

With one game to go, Fulham and Leicester both had 69 points: “In that last game, we drew 0-0 at home to Burnley. After the game we were waiting for the Fulham result at Derby.

“Thinking the referee had blown the whistle the crowd encroached onto the pitch after 88 minutes when Derby were 1-0 up. The game was abandoned but the result was allowed to stand.

“Fulham took this to appeal and Gordon took us off to Spain. A few days later, we were by the pool when Gordon and his assistant Gerry Summers shouted out to us: ‘We’re promoted!’

“Fulham’s appeal had failed. You can imagine that we had a good afternoon then. It was a shame that we couldn’t celebrate with the crowd, but we still celebrated the best we could!”

Leicester City then had four years in the top-flight: “Until then I had played wide-left or central midfield, which I preferred, but Gordon tried me at left- back and was happy with what I did.

The move came out of the blue. It was indicated to me that if I wanted any more Scottish caps, I needed to be in the First Division.

Ian Wilson

“I was captain, which was a great honour. It was the best part of my career. I really enjoyed it. My children were born in Leicester and it was a great period football-wise. I was just reaching my peak.”

Leicester were relegated in May 1987. A fortnight later, Ian was selected for Scotland.

He recollected: “My first two games were against England and Brazil, which would be any Scot’s choice as preferred international opponents.

“I was really lucky. I was 29. The Scottish team were in transition because players like Souness and Dalglish were beginning to fade. I was called up for a ‘B’ international against France (with Eric Cantona in their side) by Andy Roxburgh who was trying to put a new squad together. He told me that I would be playing. I travelled up with (Leicester City team-mate) Gary McAllister, who was only 21 at the time. 

“The game was at Aberdeen, my home town club who had released me when I was 18. I then got into the Scottish squad and got four or five caps after that.”

Early the next season, Ian signed for champions Everton: “The move came out of the blue. It was indicated to me that if I wanted any more Scottish caps, I needed to be in the First Division.

Bryan Hamilton had just taken over as team manager, so I thought it might be the right time for me to go.

“My last game at Filbert Street was a 4-0 victory over Plymouth. Bryan told me about Everton after the game and by the next lunchtime I had signed for Colin Harvey at Everton.

“Every player there was an international. I played about 45 games over the next couple of seasons, which given the competition, wasn’t too bad!”

Ian also played for Everton in the 1989 FA Cup Final: “It was after Hillsborough. It was a sad time. We had played our semi-final against Norwich. 

“Not knowing the severity of the tragedy at Hillsborough, initially we were on a high. It didn’t look as though there would be a final at one stage but the players, the fans and even the families were keen.

My last game at Filbert Street was a 4-0 victory over Plymouth. Brian told me about Everton after the game and by the next lunchtime I had signed for Colin Harvey at Everton.

Ian Wilson

“I came off the bench for the final. It was an emotional game and Liverpool won 3-2. Stuart McCall, wearing No.14, came off our bench to score twice.

“Ian Rush, also wearing No.14, came off the Liverpool bench to score twice!”

After two seasons at Everton, Ian rejoined his old Leicester boss Milne, who was manager at Turkish giants Beşiktaş.

He then had spells at Derby County, Bury Wigan and Peterhead as well as going full circle and returning to Elgin.

Ian also worked with Milne as assistant manager at Nagoya Grampus Eight (with Gary Lineker in the team) and, two years later, was Milne’s assistant again at Bursaspor, back in Turkey.

His time at Leicester will never be forgotten. Indeed his picture is included on the main staircase at King Power Stadium along with other notable players from the Club’s history.

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