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Sammy Wilson

Described as “a superstar centre-forward, pure class, strength and skill” who “scored goals for fun”, Sammy Wilson made an impressive leap from the Irish League to the international stage…

Name: Samuel J. Wilson
Born: c.1937, Dromore, Co. Down
Died: 30 October 2022, Dromore, Co. Down
Height: 5.08 ft
Weight: 11.03 st
Position: Outside-Right/Centre-Forward

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 12 Full Caps / 7 Goals (1961-1967), 1 ‘B’ Cap (1960), Youth; Irish League: 11 Caps / 1 Goal (1958-1969).
Club Honours: (with Glenavon) Irish League Champion 1956/57, 1959/60; Irish Cup Winner 1956/57, 1958/59, 1960/61; City Cup Winner; Gold Cup Winner; Ulster Cup Winner; North-South Cup Winner 1962/63; (with Dundee) Scottish League Cup Runner-Up 1967/68; (with Coleraine) Ulster Cup Winner, Top-Four Cup Winner 1968/69.

Club Career:
FA Cup
FL Cup
0(0)/ 0

Sammy Wilson won Northern Ireland Youth caps and a B cap against France in 1960 before graduating to the full side in 1961. At the time he was playing for Glenavon, under the stewardship of former international Jimmy McAlinden, as a fast moving goal-scoring outside-right. It was McAlinden who switched Wilson to centre-forward, as replacement for the legendary Jimmy Jones, and the success was immediate as he scored a hat-trick for Glenavon against Shamrock Rovers in the North-South Cup.

It was the press reports from this game at the Milltown Stadium that prompted former Ballymena United manager Alex McCrae to take Wilson to Scottish football with Falkirk in 1963. The move proved to be a spring-board for Wilson’s international career. He won his second cap just a few months after moving to Falkirk, scoring in a 2-1 win over Scotland at Windsor Park. A month later he scored twice at Wembley as England ran out 8-3 winners. Jimmy Greaves scored four for England, but Wilson gave a good account of himself in his rousing tussles with England’s centre-half Jack Charlton.

The following year the Irish gave England the fright of their life. Trailing 4-0, a Wilson goal started a fight back with two goals from Jimmy McLaughlin seeing the game finished 4-3. Of Wilson’s goal Sir Alf Ramsey commented, “It was well put away.”

In 1967 Wilson played in the Scottish League Cup Final for Dundee, a game that ended in a 5-3 defeat by Celtic and the following year helped the Dees qualify for the semi-finals of the Fairs Cup, where they narrowly lost out to Leeds. He returned to the Irish League with Bertie Peacock’s Coleraine in 1968. In a long and successful career Wilson also represented the Irish League on a number of occasions and picked up Irish League, Irish Cup, City Cup, Ulster Cup and Gold Cup Winners’ medals with Glenavon and added Top Four Cup and further Ulster Cup Winners' medals with Coleraine. In the 1959 Irish Cup Final he scored Glenavon’s first in a 2-0 replay win over Ballymena United.

On retiring from playing in the early 1970s Wilson settled in his native Dromore where he became a farmer, auctioneer and estate agent. He remained a regular visitor to Mourneview and is still fondly remembered at Falkirk, where his picture adorns the wall of the club's International Lounge. He passed away in 2022.

Northern Ireland Cap Details:
07-10-1961 Scotland.... H L 1-6 BC
12-10-1963 Scotland.... H W 2-1 BC 1 Goal

30-10-1963 Spain....... H L 0-1 ENC
20-11-1963 England..... A L 3-8 BC 2 Goals

15-04-1964 Wales....... A W 3-2 BC 1 Goal
29-04-1964 Uruguay..... H W 3-0 FR 1 Goal
03-10-1964 England..... H L 3-4 BC 1 Goal
14-10-1964 Switzerland. H W 1-0 WCQ
30-03-1966 Wales....... A W 4-1 BC
1 Goal

07-05-1966 West Germany H L 0-2 FR
16-11-1966 Scotland.... A L 1-2 ECQ
22-11-1967 England..... A L 0-2 ECQ

Summary: 12/7. Won 5, Drew 0, Lost 7.

Northern Ireland B Cap Details:
16-03-1960 France...... A L 0-5 FR

Summary: 1/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 1.

With thanks to John Meffen (Falkirk FC Historian)


Anonymous said…
Sammy coached at Dromore Amatures in the early eighties and I gained more in one training session with him than a lifetime in football, a true gentleman loved by all who were lucky to know him.

Stephen Beckett
Anonymous said…
Sammy's goals per game record in international matches was better than that of Billy Gillespie, Colin Clarke or David Healy.

jcd said…
Good point Bas - more kudos to Sammy!
Unknown said…
Did you get my comment about Sammy's tussles with Jack Charlton?
It was surely Monty Norman.

Anonymous said…
Jack Charlton wasn't capped until 1965.
Cyril McClune said…
An incredibly modest gentleman. Had the pleasure of being coached by him in the eighties at Dromore Amateurs. His understanding of the game was second to none and always made time for you. Can’t thank him enough for what he taught me. He never forgot where he came from and was a very grounded individual. Again, an absolute gentleman.
Cyril McClune said…
I have only just heard of the passing of Sammy Wilson. What a great loss to football but a greater loss to mankind.
Garry said…
As an ardent Coleraine Fan was sorry to hear of the passing of our great former goal scorer and respected gentleman. RIP.