Scotsman Obituaries: Davie Wilson, legendary Rangers and Scotland footballer

Davie Wilson, footballer. Born: 10 January 1937 in Cambuslang. Died 13 June 2022 in Glasgow, aged 85

Davie Wilson was one of the best-known and most successful Scottish footballers of his era who, during a long playing career, amassed a haul of trophies, scored a barrowload of goals and won 22 international caps. Most identified with Rangers where he spent 11 years, winning two League titles, five Scottish Cups and two League Cups, he played over 380 games for them and scored 155 goals, an impressive ratio for a winger.

He also featured in two other Rangers League successes but played insufficient games to earn medals. Further Ibrox highlights included playing in a European Cup semi-final and a European Cup Winners’Cup Final. In 1967 he continued his playing career with Dundee United and Dumbarton for whom combined he played 229 games, making a career total of over 600 competitive matches, the vast majority at top tier level.

Between 1960 and 1965 while with Rangers he earned his international caps playing in several memorable fixtures, including deputising at left back for Scotland with distinction against England at Wembley in a famous win in 1963 and being part of the team that recorded a nowadays scarcely believable 6-2 win over Spain in Madrid two months later. The blond-haired left winger always caught the eye on the pitch with his pace, flair and eye for goal and in recognition of his outstanding career he was inducted into the Halls of Fame of Rangers, Dundee United and Scottish Football.

Former Rangers and Scotland Footballer Davie Wilsonat his home in Glasgow (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

After hanging up his boots aged 36 he became involved in management, mostly at Dumbarton but also enjoying spells at Kilmarnock, Hamilton Accies and Queen of the South.

Davie was brought up with sisters Nan, Grace and Linda in the old mining village of Newton near Glasgow by parents Thomas, a miner, and Margaret.

After attending Newton Primary he moved to Gateside Secondary, Cambuslang, where he captained the football team. His potential had alerted Rangers, who invited him to Ibrox to meet fabled manager Bill Struth and former iconic left winger Alan Morton, who gave Davie useful tips on how to use his left foot more effectively. Rejected by Cambuslang Rangers as being “too small,” he joined Baillieston Juniors, where, determined to make the grade, his form convinced Rangers to sign him in summer 1956.

League matches against Dundee bookended his Ibrox career – he made his debut at Dens Park on 2 January 1957, with his final appearance also there on 29 April 1967.

Davie Wilson in his Dundee United days

Establishing himself as a first-team regular was not immediate, partly because of existing left wingers Johnny Hubbard and Andy Matthew, and partly through the necessity of combining football with National Service, one plus being selection for the British Army team.

His second season included playing fixtures in the European Cup, against St Etienne and A C Milan, with Davie being rewarded for his performance in St Etienne by the gift of a racing cycle, still on view in the Ibrox trophy room.

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Later, in 1958, he made his international debut for Scotland under-23’s against Wales as he began claiming a regular first team place. Although Rangers won the League that season his 15 games were insufficient to earn a medal.

Between 1959 and 1967 Davie shared in three League titles, earning medals in 1961 and ’63, won five Scottish Cup medals in 1960, ’62, ’63, ’64 and ’66 and two League Cup medals in 1961 and ’62. In 1960 he featured in a European Cup semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, a 12-4 aggregate loss, while in 1961 he played in the European Cup Winners Cup Final, an aggregate 4-1 loss to Fiorentina. And in 1962 he set a post-war Ibrox scoring record, notching up six goals in one game against Falkirk.

Between 1960 and ’64 he was undefeated in seven League Internationals, memorably scoring a hat trick against the English League at Villa Park in 1962. He also won 22 full caps between 1960 and ’65 when he enjoyed a good record against England, apart from the 9-3 humbling in 1961, scarcely redeemed by his two goals.

However, redemption came in 1963 when he filled in at left back after teammate Eric Caldow was carried off with a broken leg and Davie put on a never-to-be-forgotten display in a 2-1 win against the odds.

In 1967 he joined Dundee United whom he helped improve their League position and qualify twice for Europe in the Fairs’ Cup during four seasons there before moving to Dumbarton. He helped them gain promotion to the top tier, where he played for a season before becoming assistant manager and then manager.

Later he joined Kilmarnock as assistant manager prior to resuming the reins at Dumbarton, followed by a spell at Hamilton as assistant and then his final managerial post at Queen of the South, retiring in 1989.

After leaving football Davie worked in the whisky industry and ran the Waterfront Bar in Glasgow as well as being a popular match day hospitality host at Ibrox. He remained a keen lifelong fan of the club who regularly helped with the Rangers Supporters’ Trust and in recognition of his contribution fans organised a tribute dinner for him in 2015.

Apart from family and football, his main interest over many years was racing pigeons which he kept at Kilbarchan.

Davie married Avril in Paisley Abbey in 1965 and the couple enjoyed a long, happy marriage during which they had David and Sheena.

An extremely likeable, friendly individual who was excellent company, he was popular with everyone and is assured of a lofty place in the annals of Rangers and Scottish football. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren Carly, Harry, Anne and David.

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