Kelvin Wilson: Celtic Fan On Why The BFG Isn't Ready For Newcastle...
It's a sign of a successful season that so many Celtic players have been linked with moves away but now it's getting silly. It seems five consecutive games in the hoops is all it takes to be linked with a big money transfer and the fact that Newcastle are thought to be interested in centre-half Kelvin Wilson may say as much about the Geordies' drastic fall from grace and appalling goals against column as the big Englishman's form.
Wilson arrived at Celtic Park with a fair amount of build-up. Almost as soon as Neil Lennon was installed permanently as manager he was talking up the young (ish) centre-half he'd played with in his brief spell at Nottingham Forest before he hung up his boots and joined the Parkhead coaching staff. He scooped Wilson up on a Bosman and having secured him for the future, tried to force Forest's hand into an immediate sale. The English club stood firm, preferring to let the player rot in the reserves than allow him to go in January, so by the time Wilson finally arrived in Glasgow in the summer of 2011, the fans had waited a long time to see him in action.
Lennon's answer to the Hoops' well-documented defensive problems didn't exactly live up to his billing though. Despite a strong debut, some of his early outings were clumsy and unsure, giving away cheap possession and being posted missing at dead balls with alarming regularity. He also struggled with niggling injuries, and his underwhelming start caused him to spend his first season in Scotland in and out of the team. While never negatively targeted by the Celtic support, their feelings could be best summed up with the phrase, "at least we didn't spend any money on him."
This season, though, things have started to look up for the towering Nottingham lad. Circumstances aligned to give him a run in the team: Daniel Majstorovic left; Charlie Mulgrew began to play most of his football in midfield; Thomas Rogne continued to frustrate with injury and poor form; the great enigma Efe Ambrose went off to win the African Nations with Nigeria. The defensive berths opened up for Wilson and to give credit where it's due, he took the opportunity to find a previously undiscovered level of consistency. Nonetheless, there will be more than a few eyebrows raised at supposed interest from the Premiership.
Why the surprise? Well, it's not that he's no good. It's just that in a side packed with players who have wowed the fans, he doesn't stand out as one that the eyes of the world might be watching. He's a solid enough defender, strong and imposing as you'd expect for a man of his frame. Uncompromising and unspectacular, he has in fact shown signs of becoming the kind of dependable centre half of which Celtic have historically had precious few. This season he has added some much-needed stability to the green-and-white back four. But that's only part of the story.
His positional awareness has been questioned by some. Even against run of the mill SPL sides opposing strikers have found space in the box that they had no right to find and have made Celtic suffer. On some of those occasions, Wilson's number 6 jersey has been the one conspicuous by its absence. There may also be issues at the other end of the park. At the time of writing he hadn't scored in 41 appearances this season. Getting among the goals isn't really his job, but at 6ft3, and with the kind of ammunition supplied by the likes of Mulgrew and Kris Commons you'd have thought he'd be a danger at set pieces. Maybe this is hair-splitting, but an aerial threat is part of the package that makes an awesome centre-half, and a defender chipping in a handful of goals a season can be truly invaluable. Not a term that can be applied to Wilson, at this stage at least.
But let's counter the negativity for a moment and consider Barcelona. Non-Celts will doubtless start snoring at the very thought of me harping on about Celtic's 2-1 victory over the Catalans yet again. But that night Wilson was immense. Along with Ambrose and Victor Wanyama, he was a key brick in the green-and-white wall that Messi & Co couldn't knock down. He was everywhere and in fact Europe has been the stage for most of his best performances. In that setting he has shown he does have quality.
It may well be that in a year's time Kelvin Wilson will have fully established himself as the lynchpin of Celtic's defence. He may have answered the criticisms and continued the reliable efficiency he's recently started to display. But for now, transfer speculation seems a little premature. I wrote something similar about Efe Ambrose for Sabotage Times not long ago and like his Nigerian colleague, establishing himself at Celtic might be the best move for him right now. Because for now, as with Ambrose, the jury is still out.
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