Mark Wilson will never forget being mentored by Dundee United legends Paul Hegarty and Maurice Malpas – and now he has vowed to do the same to the club’s crop of rising stars.
Wilson has returned on an initial six-month deal to Tannadice where he began his career as a young player tipped for the top. The former Scotland international clinched a move to Celtic from United in 2006 and cites the influence of ex-United managerial duo, Hegarty and Malpas, as instrumental in helping him fulfil his potential.
Now the 29-year-old, back at his first club following his summer departure from Bristol City, believes it is his turn to become a mentor to United’s batch of highly-rated youngsters like Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Gauld, John Souttar and Andrew Robertson.
Wilson, who goes straight into the squad for tomorrow’s home clash with St Johnstone, said: “It was really Maurice Malpas and Paul Hegarty who mentored me. I look up to those two guys even now.
“When you have two people like that looking after you from a very early age you can only hope to emulate them. It might not be possible to emulate what they achieved but you can still learn from their character and their knowledge of the game. But I have got a lot of time for them – not forgetting Terry Butcher who was youth coach – as it was a first-class grounding.
“I’m very grateful for the whole experience. We also had a great dressing-room when I was here the first time. There were the likes of Charlie Miller, Billy Dodds and Jim McIntyre. They were all very experienced and had won things in the game so it was good for me to look up to them as well. Hopefully I can now help the younger lads here.
“I’ve won a few things myself in my career and played in some important games as well. I knew some of the younger ones even before I came here.
“It was from watching games on television last season when I was still at Bristol City and they all looked very impressive. Then you see them at first-hand in training and appreciate they’re even better than what you thought. It’s very promising for the club with all these young players coming through.”
Wilson has been bowled over by some of the young United players’ talent and believes that they have already won admirers elsewhere. He said: “I was staying with my old Celtic team-mate, Paddy McCourt, recently and he’s well into his football. He was mentioning some of the United youngsters as well and asking what certain ones were like in training.
“It’s good for Scottish football and good for this club that people are noticing the talent. We watched the Scotland Under-21s last week and, although they got hammered, it was nice to see Stuart Armstrong as captain.”
Wilson is glad to have left his Bristol days behind him, where a lack of first-team action left him kicking his heels. But the versatile full-back believes he’s got plenty of time left to recapture his top form.
Wilson said: “Bristol has been the only stumbling block in my career. I had been quite pleased with the way things had gone since I broke into the United team at 17. Last year at Bristol was like a bit of a speed-bump. I didn’t enjoy it, purely because of the fact I wasn’t really playing.
“Hopefully this will give me the chance to get my career going and start playing again for the next six months. I’m still only 29 and have got a few good years left in me.
“I only played eight or nine first-team games last season, with my last game coming back in February for the reserves. There were no real reserve games at Bristol. If you weren’t in the first-team then you weren’t really in the plans.
“It might take me a couple of under-20 games to get me up to match-speed but I’m just desperate to get going.”