Next up in our tales of transfers past, we move to Goodison Park and a player who came with a good reputation but failed to deliver, as MARK GODFREY explains.
It took some kind of player to have persuaded me not to choose Russian misfit Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, woeful striker Brett Angell or the chicken-hearted Niclas Alexandersson as my worst Everton transfer flop. And don’t even get me started on Mark Pembridge, but Ian Wilson – once of Leicester City – has to be right up (or down?) there.
A left-sided or central midfielder – who, before moving to Filbert Street had learned his trade in the Highland League with Elgin City – 29-year-old Wilson was brought in for £300,000 in September 1987 by manager Colin Harvey as back up for the supremely talented Kevin Sheedy. As a then-current Scotland international, back when getting a cap north of the border was a huge achievement given the stiff competition for a call-up, the expectancy was that he would slot right into a title-challenging team (Everton were reigning English champions when he arrived) providing ammunition to the front line in the battle for trophies with our lovable neighbours from Anfield.
However, my memories of him of are twofold: firstly he looked – even to my young, 12-year-old eyes – way out of his depth. As a consequence, the other abiding recollection I have of his time on Merseyside is of my dad christening him Ian ‘Bloody’ Wilson on account of the amount of times he misplaced a pass or was caught somewhere he shouldn’t be, forcing Pater to spew forth streams of Anglo-Saxon invective past my tender, innocent ears in the direction of the balding Scotsman.
Perhaps myself and my old man were being a bit unfair, given the calibre of the man he was understudy to; Sheedy was a legend, with a left foot so deft he could probably peel an orange with it. And let’s not forget the some of the others whose shadow he had to live in – Peter Reid, Trevor Steven, Graeme Sharp and Neville Southall to name but a few.
The £300,000 price tag, even for 1987, was relatively modest so it’s not as if Harvey bet the farm on Wilson being a roaring success, yet the merest mention of Wilson’s name is still enough to set my nerves on edge. Dad turns 69 in November, his heart isn’t what it was; I dare not even utter his name in his presence.
After just 34 League games in the royal blue of Everton (and an appearance in the 1989 FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool) Wilson was jettisoned to Besiktas where he won the Turkish league and cup double in an even shorter stint.
Was Istanbul far enough away for you, Dad?