WHEN Mark Wilson was released by Celtic two years ago, he, understandably, felt his time enjoying glory days in the east end of Glasgow had come to a permanent end.
This Saturday, the former Scotland international will return to Celtic Park in pursuit of a victory he believes would stand out from everything else in his career so far.
Wilson collected all three major domestic honours during six and a half years with the club he supported as a boy, including an appearance in their 2011 Scottish Cup final win against Motherwell at Hampden. But lifting the famous old trophy in the colours of Dundee United, the club where he started his career, would carry extra resonance for the 29-year-old full-back.
“It would be pretty special,” said Wilson. “After being at Celtic so long and then going away, you would never expect to play in a game at Parkhead again where you could win something.
“So to go back there and win a trophy would be fantastic. It’s a one-off, with the final being moved from Hampden this year, and will certainly never be repeated in my career. So it would be pretty special, a unique moment.
“It’s also a different feeling going into a cup final with United. At Celtic, the expectation is always that you are going to win it. The after-party is all booked and planned well in advance.
“I was lucky enough to win the cup three years ago with Celtic and it was a great atmosphere and something I will always savour. I also played in the 2005 final for United, against Celtic, and it was a different feeling altogether. No-one really expected us to win and, although we were disappointed to lose, there was still a sense of achievement in getting to the final. There are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes around the build-up. Cup finals don’t come along as often for clubs like United.”
Wilson has been rejuvenated this season, back at Tannadice after an ill-fated year with Bristol City when he admits he found it difficult to deal with his departure from Celtic.
“The year at Bristol City was a nightmare and leaving Celtic was quite a hard thing mentally,” he added. “I remember when I first went to Celtic I said to my wife I didn’t think I’d be there for long. I thought I’d just be there to fill the bench, there for a year and then use it as a good stepping stone to get another club.
“Then, as the years went on and I was there for six years, I began to think I wanted to stay forever and I’d probably stay until I finished playing.
“Then, of course, when the time comes to leave it’s pretty hard to take. It was a hard few months and, when I moved down south, it didn’t work out. I maybe took playing for Celtic for granted a wee bit.
“But it was the right time for me to go and the right decision by Neil Lennon.
“I had no complaints really – Celtic had signed Mikael Lustig and also had Adam Matthews, so there were two younger international players there for the right-back position.
“If you’re so comfortable in a certain position at a job for so many years, you get in a comfort zone. It was pretty similar at Dundee United. I went there after leaving school and was there from 16 until I was 21, so I was in a comfort zone. When I left there and went to Celtic, it was totally different, I missed United and although I was a fan of Celtic and it was a dream come true I missed my comfort zone.
“But it’s been a breath of fresh air coming to United, getting to a cup final and playing alongside such talented young players. I wish I could turn back time ten years, I’m enjoying it so much just now.”