Kelvin Wilson: Celtic’s win over Barca trumps treble

Former Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson looks forward to the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Aberdeen.

Kelvin played for Celtic when they last won the Cup in 2013.
Former Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson looks forward to the Scottish Cup final between Celtic and Aberdeen. Kelvin played for Celtic when they last won the Cup in 2013.
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When Kelvin Wilson helped Celtic retain the Premiership title in 2012/13, they lost seven fixtures and, while they also won the Scottish Cup that season, they were also beaten by unfancied St Mirren in the semi-finals of the League Cup.

Yet, while Brendan Rodgers’ men are just three games away from completing an unprecedented clean sweep of domestic honours without a solitary defeat, Wilson would not swap their unbeaten campaign for the one he experienced four years ago.

The 31-year-old central defender, currently a signing target for Hibernian, may have had to settle for a double in his final season at Parkhead but it was the unforgettable European memories which have convinced him that what he did was more satisfying.

Celtic, under Neil Lennon, beat Barcelona 2-1 in Glasgow in the Champions League group phase, finishing second behind Pep Guardiola’s side – and ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow – as they qualified for the last 16, where they lost to Juventus.

The highly-charged atmosphere on the night of the victory over the Catalans convinced him that that experience would top even a pristine treble.

“I’d probably go for what we did,” said Wilson. “I’m happy with that. I don’t regret anything. It’s amazing what the guys are doing now – and they are doing a great job – but I’m proud of what we achieved in the team when I was here.

“The night we beat Barca was amazing. I was given a DVD of it recently and the camera went on to their players as they came out of the tunnel to line up. You could see Cesc Fabregas talking to Gerard Pique and looking around.

“For players like them, who play in that sort of arena every other week and who have been to World Cups, to be impressed by Celtic Park was amazing.”

Wilson feels similar admiration for what Rodgers and his players have done this season.

“People say that the league is weaker now but to go that many games unbeaten is impressive, whether it is weak or strong. How would they compare with the team I played in?

“It’s pretty hard to say. This one is a good side and we were a good side as well. I’m not in that Celtic changing room now but we had a good togetherness. We all got on off the pitch as well. That seems to be the same in this team too, though.”

Yet, like all of the best Celtic teams, this year’s model will need to prove themselves in Europe before they receive praise from outside Scotland.

“They won’t get credit anywhere else; that is 100 per cent the case and it will always be that way,” said Wilson. “Even when I spoke to former team-mates down south they’d say: ‘You should be winning every week because it’s Celtic.’

“But that’s not the case; it’s much harder up here than people in England think. You need to have the mindset that will help you to win every week, especially when you play against a lot of the smaller clubs, because it’s their cup final.”

Wilson hopes that former Celtic team-mate Kris Commons, who has not featured under Rodgers and whose contract is due to expire, will be given the opportunity to take a final bow at home to Hearts on Sunday.

“It would be nice for him,” he said. “He’s been at Celtic long enough and he loves the club as well. He deserves a send-off and it’s not as if he would weaken the team.”

l Kelvin Wilson was speaking at a William Hill event. William Hill is a proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.