Footballer and the first Asian to represent Scotland

Born: November 23, 1950;

Died: September 18, 2017

PAUL Wilson, who has died aged 66, was a professional footballer who had the distinction of being the only Asian to represent Scotland during the 20th century.

Born in Bangalore, India, to a Scottish father William James Wilson (based in India with the Royal Air Force) and a mother of Dutch–Portuguese descent, Elaine Mary Henricus, Paul moved to Scotland with his parents at the age of one – to Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow, close to Celtic Park.

At the age of 11 the family moved to Milngavie and Paul was educated at St Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch, playing football for the school in the same league as future Celtic and Scotland stars Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain. Those three would play for Glasgow Schools and would go on to win the Scottish Schools Cup.

Wilson signed for Jock Stein’s Celtic in December 1967 and was quickly following the well-worn path of being farmed out to the junior ranks to gain experience, to Maryhill, playing for the Lochburn Park club for an unusually lengthy period of three years before being called up to the senior ranks in 1970.

A first-team debut quickly followed that September in a home European Cup-tie when Wilson was introduced as a late substitute, scoring twice in a 9-0 win over KPV Kokkola of Finland.

Despite that early introduction it took Wilson three years to establish himself as a first-team regular – until season 1973-74 when eight goals in 32 appearances marked his breakthrough. Two crucial goals during that campaign were in a vital league fixture at Easter Road against Hibernian in February, and – just four days later – a stunning volley that produced a priceless away goal in a European Cup-tie against Basle.

A forward of considerable pace and skill, the player featured regularly on either wing as Jock Stein sought to take full advantage of his speed – although Wilson always believed that his best position was in the centre of the attack, just off the main striker. Strong in the air as well as skilful on the ground, fast and elegant, a lack of consistency was perhaps the only flaw in his armoury.

Perhaps his finest season at Parkhead was 1974-75 when he scored 25 goals in 53 games, including chalking up a remarkable statistic in finding the net in four Hampden finals in different competitions – Scottish Cup, League Cup, Glasgow Cup and Drybrough Cup. Perhaps significantly Wilson was by now being played in his preferred central position and at the conclusion of a disappointing league campaign for Stein’s Celtic netted a brace at Hampden on successive Saturdays in cup finals.

The player demonstrated immense strength of character when playing in the 1975 Scottish cup final when his mother passed away following a long illness during the week leading up to the game, his father having died three years earlier. He not only elected to play but scored two goals to ensure a 3-1 win over Airdrieonians.

Full international recognition with Scotland had arrived courtesy of manager Willie Ormond’s selection when the Celt came on as a substitute in a credible 1-1 draw against Spain in Valencia in a European Championship qualifier on February 5, 1975.

Paul Wilson loved to play in Old Firm clashes against Rangers, and in later years recalled classic encounters against Sandy Jardine. The Celt twice netted a brace of goals in 2-2 draws – perhaps the most important being the opening league fixture of season 1976-77 when his spectacular 87th minute equaliser gave the Parkhead men the momentum to enjoy a successful domestic season, securing the league and cup double, the last trophies of the Jock Stein era.

Season 1977-78 was not the best for Celtic – and with Jock Stein making way for Billy McNeill in the summer of 1978 Paul Wilson’s days were numbered as the new manager wanted to build a younger side. The opportunity to join Newcastle United was blocked by McNeill and on September 20, 1978, Wilson signed for Motherwell for a £50,000 fee – two days after Celtic had signed Davie Provan from Kilmarnock.

A total of 217 appearances for Celtic had yielded 55 goals, two League Championship, two Scottish Cup and one League Cup Winners’ medals but the lasting impression is that a player of such talent had not achieved all that he might under Jock Stein.

Just 45 days later Paul Wilson returned to the East End of Glasgow to inspire his new team-mates to a 2-1 win.

He stayed at Fir Park for just that season before moving on to Partick Thistle – but by his own admission he had lost his appetite for football. There were niggling injury problems that required cortisone injections – and the loss of his mother had affected him deeply.

He retired from professional football aged just 29 – and began working in the licensed trade in Bellshill only to be tempted by former team-mate Jinny Johnstone to return to the junior ranks with Blantyre Celtic and remarkably played at junior international level in October 1980 against the Republic of Ireland before finally hanging up his boots at the age of 31.

In later years he lived quietly in Milngavie while working in the motor trade.

Paul Wilson died on 18 September 18, 2017. He is survived by his second wife Joy, sons Barry and Paul, and daughters Ceri and Katie.