When you score the winner in one of the most controversial chapters of a Scottish sporting occasion with true global appeal, a place in history might be the expected reward. Alas, the dustbin of history is where Mark Wilson’s decisive strike has been consigned. The defender’s goal sent Celtic through to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup at the expense of Rangers on the night of Wednesday, 2 March, 2011 at Parkhead.
That goal has been buried under an almighty heap of rubbish – in the form of daft on-field behaviour that brought three Rangers dismissals; a stupid touchline confrontation at time up between Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant Ally McCoist, and the ludicrous reaction to both that led to preposterous government involvement and then dreadful lawmaking.
As he yesterday looked forward to this Saturday’s first such derby at Parkhead in four years, Wilson could deliver the ultimate verdict on what this detritus did to his claim to fame. With a smile.
“Nobody remembers my goal. I remember it!” he said “It did get overlooked because of what was going on at that time. Everything was blown out of proportion regarding Ally [McCoist] and Neil [Lennon] that night. Then you had [El Hadji] Diouf and [Madjid] Bougherra [acting up after being red-carded to follow team-mate Steven Whittaker]. There was all sorts going on.
“We had summits after the game, so no wonder nobody remembers the goal. I don’t blame them. Everyone was in shock. It was a weird game. There were seven [Old Firm] games that season and a lot of them were overlooked but it was great having them one after another. People were starting to say they were fed up with this fixture but it now gone completely the other way. People would happily take seven a year now.
“It was a great night for me so I remembered it. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my days. I was lucky enough to do it but if nobody remembers it then that’s fine by me.
“I thought was I was about to be ‘the man’. I couldn’t wait to see my picture on the back page but I had to turn 17 pages inside to find it! The game was discussed in Holyrood and places like that but it was a great game to be involved in.
“It was a different atmosphere for that game as things were starting to boil over with rivalries on and off the pitch.”
Wilson, who made that special leap from season-ticketing holding supporter to Celtic player, has no doubt where games against Rangers rank in his playing days in Glasgow’s east end, a period from 2006 to 2012 wherein he was a member of a squad that reached the Champions League last 16 in back-to-back seasons.
“[From] when I used to go as a kid to watch them as a five-year-old, all the way through to playing in them; you can’t beat them. That’s the thing. I know there are Champions League nights and at Celtic Park the atmosphere at those games is right up there. But walking out at an Old Firm game, and especially winning and walking off after it, is a hard feeling to beat for any Celtic player and Celtic fan.”
And the fan in Wilson – who sees Saturday’s encounter as an Old Firm game like no other regardless of Rangers’ liquidation four years ago – wants classic combat.
“We would all like to see fireworks, we are dying to see that, myself included. You hope it’s in the right way and not one of these horrible encounters where players start brawling on the pitch, the WWE stuff. You hope it’s hard and fair.”