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Notts Alumni - Kelvin Wilson

Joe Jones

The youth academy is many a football club's pride and joy. There is nothing quite like seeing local youngsters working their way through the ranks, from the youth team up into the first team.

Notts County's academy has seen some good local players in the starting eleven in recent years, most recently Haydn Hollis, Fabian Speiss and Greg Tempest. One thing that Notts County cannot offer at the moment, however, is top flight or European football, and sometimes, an exceptionally talented player may feel the need to progress in his career by playing in a higher league.

Players of this calibre leave with the club and the fans' blessing, and seeing home-grown talent playing at the highest level is something that fills Notts fans with pride.

One such player is Kelvin Wilson. Born in Nottingham in 1985, the youngster made his debut for the Magpies on April 17th 2004 away at Hartlepool United which the team, reeling from financial troubles and with relegation imminent, lost 4-0.

The eighteen-year old made a further two appearances as Notts' disastrous season came to a close, scoring an unfortunate own goal to seal Brighton's play-off place on May the 1st.

The following season in League 2 saw Wilson sign a two-year professional contract and break into the first-team squad, playing 41 times as Notts consolidated their place in the division. He also played and scored in the League Cup clash against West Ham.

Such was the youngster's talent that boss Ian Richardson had to play down reports that Premier League clubs were keeping tabs on him after an impressive performance against Swindon in the FA Cup in December.

The following season, Wilson was again praised by new manager Gudjon Thordarson, saying he would have liked him "to see with us for some time" and confirmed he had been offered a contract extension after the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United were reported to be after him.

Forming a good partnership with Julian Baudet, Wilson was again singled out for praise in September after the Magpies' brilliant start to the season, but he couldn't prevent Notts from freefalling down the table in the following months.

In March 2006, Wilson decided to join Preston North End on loan with a view to signing permanently. The Lilywhites ended the season well, qualifying for the play-offs, but were beaten in the semis by Leeds United. Nevertheless, the youngster signed a three-year deal after his Notts contract ran out.

In total, Wilson played 78 times for Magpies, while for Preston, he played a total of 27 games before Nottingham Forest came calling.

The lure of returning to his hometown, and playing for the club he supported as a kid, proved too much for Wilson, who signed a four-year deal with the Reds. Preston received £300,000 for the player.

His debut season in 2007/08 proved to be very successful, as Forest were promoted from League One in second place and kept 24 clean sheets, a testament to his great defensive abilities.

Things turned sour for Wilson, however, as he became the subject of a transfer battle between Forest and SPL giants Celtic in 2011. He signed a pre-contract agreement to join the Bhoys in January 2011, but he insisted he wanted to hook up with the Glasgow team straight away rather than wait until the end of the season. Forest were reportedly unhappy with this statement, and through falling out of favour with the hierarchy and picking up injuries, he didn't play for the club again. His last game for the Reds was against Ipswich in January.

Wilson had to wait until hooking up with Celtic for his successive game, a friendly against the Central Coast Mariners in July, while his competitive debut came against Hibernian in the opening match of the SPL. He played a very good first competitive game and helped the Bhoys to a 2-0 win, making two crucial interventions to deny Hibs.

He played a total of 21 appearances for Celtic in his first season, including his first European game, against Atletico Madrid, and his first Old Firm game, where he struggled against Rangers and was on the receiving end of a 4-2 beating.

In the close season, there were talks that Wilson was unsettled, having lost his first-team place amid some mediocre performances, and that he was heading to Ipswich, but he remained at Celtic, where things were to turn around for him rather quickly.

The departure of Glenn Loovens to Real Zaragoza and Thomas Rogne's persistent injury problems gave Wilson the opportunity to earn his place back into the first team, and he seized his chance with much improved performances, namely the Champions League play-off match against Helsingsborg.

Better was to come from the defender, though, as the Bhoys were up against Barcelona, arguably the greatest club team in the world, in the group stages.

On October 23rd, he had one of the finest games of his career, proving a thorn in Lionel Messi's side as the Spanish side registered a narrow 2-1 win. Two weeks later, the SPL team went one better and stunned the Blaugrana at Celtic Park, beating them 2-1, Wilson playing a crucial part in the historic victory, and better was to come as Celtic made it into the second round of the Champions' League, drawing none other than the team whose history is intertwined with Notts County, Italian giants Juventus.

Sadly, Celtic couldn't conquer the Turin titans and went out, but all those linked with the club could hold their heads high, none more so than Kelvin Wilson, who completed the amazing journey from the Notts County academy and the Magpies' first team in the bottom rung of the Football League to shutting out the best team in the world, containing arguably the finest player of all time.

Not that this journey is over by any means. Wilson continues to excel for Celtic, who look set to retain the SPL title this season, and was touted for a possible England call up in March 2013 after impressing national team manager Roy Hodgson.

Though the defender didn't make the Three Lions squad, at 27 he still has quite a few years ahead of him, and he is in the form of his life and always improving, so who's to say he won't make the cut in future?

Whatever happens, as a Notts County fan I am proud to see a home-grown local player proving himself at the highest level, and here's hoping he goes to achieve much more in the game!

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Well that's been popular Joe, 15 likes already!

I enjoy these, I know many others do and I'm often being asked who is following. I appreciate the time you've taken to write all of these mate, you do us proud and I love reading comments about others appreciating your writing too.

Thank you for this wonderful write up, really enjoyed it.

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Pride of Nottingham is an independent fansite devoted to Notts County, the world’s oldest professional football club. Created in 2013, it has served as a source of Magpie news, features, match previews, reports, analysis and interviews for more than three years.

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