IAN WILSON is the latest Pollok legend to discuss his Newlandsfield memories with the Pollok website.
What brought you to Pollok? (i.e. the circumstances surrounding the move, who was responsible etc)
The circumstances that brought me to Pollok were pretty unorthodox. The previous season I had been playing with Cumbernauld United. I say playing, I was on the bench for most of it and I had been told by the then manager that my services weren’t required. I still went along to pre-season, as I still believed I was the best goalkeeper at the club. During work I received a phone call from the assistant manager (Mitchell Gibb) who said that he had received a phone call from Ian Spittal to see if I’d be interested in coming in for a trial as Danny Hanley was still injured and was expected to be injured for most of the season and they only had Allan Smith on the books. I turned up on the Saturday - a few eyebrows were raised due to my then physique - and played a game up at Whitecraigs Rugby Club between the current playing staff and trialists. After the game I was invited to training and the rest is history as they say.
What are your favourite memories of playing for Pollok?
My favourite memories have got to be winning the inaugural Super League, Our league cup campaign hadn’t been the best and we failed to qualify for the later stages. Our first league game was against Cumnock in front of approximately 800 spectators and I’m sure I assisted two, possibly three of Paul McNeill’s goals that day. To then go on a run with only one league defeat that season takes some doing. Of course, playing any game against Arthurlie and winning was always special!
Off the field, it was Jimmy Gilligan’s tenure as Club President and on the day I signed was welcomed with one of Jimmy’s one-liners - “Welcome to Pollok Ian, everybody dislikes us, because we’re successful” or words to that effect.
On a personal basis, to be part of and win so many medals with one of the most successful Pollok teams in the history of the club, to be capped at junior level and to win two consecutive Player of the Year awards, especially as a goalkeeper, will always generate fond memories.
What match/matches stick out for you as being favourites?
The Sectional League Cup Final against Kilsyth at Firhill in 2003 always sticks in my mind. We played about 60-70 minutes with 10 men after one of big Del’s infamous crunching tackles got him sent off and also gave away a penalty, which they scored from. We kept plugging away and, after the 90 minutes had came and went, deep into injury time we were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box and Drew McWilliams followed up after Davie Hamilton’s peach towards the top corner had been saved to make it 1-1. The game went straight to penalties, yours truly saved the third penalty which helped us win the cup and the celebrations went on to the Social Club.
Any funny stories you can recall?
During our return trip from Dunbar in the Scottish Cup - we had signed Davie Hamilton that previous week - we had a couple of refreshments and unknown to the rest of the players Kevin O’Neil had been winding up Davie that as part of the team ritual all new players had to give the bus a rendition of a favourite song of theirs, so about 30 minutes into the journey wee Kev starts nipping at Davie’s ear and then the whole bus was basically told to be quiet as the new signing was about to give a rendition of his song. Next thing Davie’s up on his feet giving it his best shot of Oasis’s ‘Little by Little’. Wee Kev’s peeing himself laughing never thinking he would do it, but fair play to the big man, he sang his heart out as if he was auditioning for X Factor.
On the playing side big Ronnie was always inadvertently causing chaos, During a defeat to St. Anthony’s in the League Cup - we had already qualified, by the way - Stevie Gayne had given away the penalty that cost us the game, Full-time back in the dressing room and the management had their say and we all started to get changed for our showers. I had had my shower and was walking out, but somebody had mentioned something about the game and just as I came out the shower there is this bag of football boots flying across the dressing room heading right for yours truly. Fortunately enough I caught a glimpse of it and managed to catch the bag, and in the background was Ronnie with those big staring eyes that you don’t want to see, but that was Ronnie, so passionate even after the result. I could go on and on, but Ronnie would be in most of the stories too.
Who was/were the best players you played with while at Pollok?
I’ve got to say that during my time at Pollok I was blessed to play alongside and work under some of the best talents in football and management. Firstly, my fellow goalkeepers in Danny, Robert and Kris all had different attributes but all were great keepers in their own right. Defender wise you had Kevin O, Marky McWilliams and Stevie Aitch, who despite their size would run through walls for the cause, then there was the cart horse that was known to us as Derek Heaton, lacked pace but would put his head in places that most defenders wouldn’t even put their boot. At the last count it was in the region of 50 stitches. In midfield you had wee Nelly and Andy McClay who could keep the ball for fun, Davie McGeown who could do things with the ball that beggared belief at times, Davie Hamilton who could score goals for fun from the centre of the park and then there was Raymond Logan who had the most horrendous first touch and short passing game you’ll ever see but he would be guaranteed at least 20 goals each season. Forwards, you had the most natural finishers in wee Dingy and Paul McNeill and that could also be said for the enigma that was Drew McWilliams - on his day he could be a match for any striker in the league. Those are but a few whom I have graced Newlandsfield with and I’ve had the pleasure of so many more talents. As for my two managers, their trophy cabinets speak for themselves.
Any particularly tough opponents?
I think what you soon realise is that every opponent that you play against is going to be tough. As soon as teams turn up at Newlandsfield they get a lift from the surroundings, playing surface and the fans in attendance, so you have to be mentally right during every game. On individual players, I’ve got to say that Brian McGinty and his beefy side kick Paul Kerr when they were are Cumnock always gave me a bit of a torrid time, but I’d like to think that I gave them a torrid time as well.
Is there a save you made which sticks out in your mind as being your best, or a particular favourite?
During the inaugural Super League, we played Irvine Meadow away during the festive period and we were going through a sticky patch. We went in at half-time 1-nil down and it was one of those games that we needed to win as our opponents were breathing down our necks. With about 20 minutes left a Meadow player cut in from their left hand side and curled a peach into the top corner and I somehow managed to throw myself across the goals and tip the ball round the post / over the bar. We then scored two goals in the remaining time, the second deep into injury time by Kevin Proctor to clinch a 2-1 victory which got the ball rolling again towards the title.
You had a fantastic record at saving penalties, in particular in shoot-outs (won 8 out of 11) - what was your technique when it came to penalties?
I wouldn’t say I had a technique, but what I will say is that every training session finished with a penalty shoot-out to see who would bring in the gear, so obviously when you’re involved in a shoot-out every week your confidence grows to such that you thrive in these pressure pot situations. I suppose inadvertently you pick up on the taker’s body language, but as with all shoot-outs a degree of luck is required.
Do you still manage along to see Lok matches?
When given the opportunity to go to Lok matches I come along, I’m finding it more and more difficult though as family commitments are starting to take up most Saturdays but if I can make it, I’m usually there with my daughter Kristi, a self-confessed Pollok fan already, and dad, who also still enjoys popping along to Newlandsfield. It’s hard to stay away as I have made so many friends with supporters, committee and also opposition fans.
What are you doing now?
I signed for the ‘Burgh’ in October / November time, but due to the weather playing games has been difficult as it’s played havoc with the park. I picked up an injury during the festive period playing in a friendly and have struggled to shake it off, so at the moment I’m hoping my injury heals so that I can start training again and see what happens. Who knows though, I might be looking for a coaching role sometime in the future.