Wilson enjoying Swifts experience

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

DUNGANNON Swifts midfielder Dougie Wilson admits he would have loved to have made the grade in England with Hull City, but is enjoying his return to Northern Irish football.

The 23-year-old started his football journey at Portadown Boys, before moves to Banbridge Town and Linfield occurred prior to the switch to Hull.

Wilson would spend four years in England, before moving back to the Irish League with Dungannon Swifts and is a prominent first-team player at Stangmore Park.

"I started off at Portadown Boys when I was eight-years-old," Wilson said. "After two years there I went to Banbridge Town for a year and I was spotted by Linfield.

"I played football with Linfield until I was 16 and got a move to Hull City. I started off at centre-back but always wanted to play further forward, so after I couple of years at centre-back I moved to central midfield and I have stayed there ever since.

"While I was playing at Linfield there was a Hull scout called Stefan Seaton who came to watch and sent me over on trial.

"It went well and they asked me back, then after my third time being over they offered me a contract which I signed straight away as I really enjoyed it there.

"I moved over there when I was 16 after my GCSE exams."

The likeable midfielder admits he 'loved every minute' of his time at Hull, but will always call Markethill home after being brought up in the area.

"Getting the chance to play football as a job and at a club as big as Hull was unbelievable, Wilson added. "I never felt homesick but I think that was down to me living with Paul McElroy who was another lad from here who signed for Hull from Dungannon.

"It's fair to say that after living in Markethill, Hull was a massive difference.

"I live about two miles outside Markethill in the sticks so to go from that to a massive city like Hull takes a bit of getting use to.

"I went to the primary school and high school in Markethill and wouldn't have swapped it to grow up anywhere else."

In January 2013, Wilson's dream would come true as he made his first-team debut for the club against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup, before moving on loan to Grimsby Town for the rest of the season.

"I captained the youth team to win the league in my second year there and captained the Reserves to win the league in my third year there," Wilson continued.

"Making my debut was brilliant and I remember being buzzing about just being on the bench.

"Steve Bruce gave me the call to get ready when I was warming up, it was definitely a surreal moment and one I won't forget. "After I made my first team appearance for Hull, I went on loan to Grimsby for a month.

"Although I only made three appearances, it was good to get out of development football for a while and see what real football was like, were results mattered and it wasn't just about playing pretty football.

"I think it definitely helped me even though I wasn't there for long."

At the end of the 2012-13 season, Wilson wasn't offered a new contract to remain at Hull City and admits he was disappointed to not have made it at the Tigers.

"I knew it would be tough to make the grade at Hull, but I thought that I had a small chance of making it in England if not at Hull, then at another club," Wilson revealed. "Unfortunately it wasn't supposed to be. A move to the Irish League beckoned and Wilson penned a deal with Dungannon Swifts under the management of Darren Murphy, but Wilson would have preferred to stay in England.

"Dungannon is only half an hour down the road so it suited me well," he said. "I obviously didn't want to move home but once I got released I was running out of options.

"I had an unsuccessful trial at Notts County and eventually signed for Dungannon at the start of September.

"I think it was definitely a low point for me but you can't let it affect you, there are a lot of worse things in life than getting released from a football club.

"I'm just thankful that I was able to join such a good football club in a competitive league."

A high percentage of young footballers from Northern Ireland don't make the grade in England and Wilson believes playing Irish League football before going over to the mainland is a sensible path to take.

"I think it's hard to turn down a team across the water when you're 16-years-old," Wilson acknowledged. "Although I do think you have more of a chance if you go over after playing Irish League for a few seasons.

"If you go over then you're straight in and have your chance in a first team environment whereas if you're going over at 16 you have to work your way up from youth team level.

"There are pros and cons to staying and going, but I definitely wouldn't put a young lad off going across at 16."

Wilson admits he is enjoying his spell at Dungannon and impressive performances at Stangmore Park have alerted clubs like Linfield and Crusaders, but the Markethill man is solely focused on matters on the pitch for the Swifts.

"I am really enjoying my time at Dungannon because the changing room we have is fantastic," Wilson stressed. "There's a great atmosphere between the lads and the banter that flies back and forward between us all is brilliant.

"Rodney has us trying to play the right way which not many teams do in the Irish League, which I think suits my game as I like to try and play.

"There was a bit of paper talk last season but that's all it was. Obviously I would like to be somewhere were the team is challenging for things, but when you look at the squad we have at Dungannon there's no reason why we can't challenge for trophies.

"Look at how well Coleraine have done this season, if we keep the squad we have now together, we have to be aiming at winning trophies."

The Swifts could claim a trophy later this month as they reached the final of the League Cup, and Wilson hopes to repay all the volunteers at the club with some silverware.

"It will be a great occasion for the club as there are so many hard working people about the club so it's great to repay all of them with a big day out," Wilson added.

"It will definitely be the biggest game I have been involved in.

"At this moment in time, we don't care who we face in the final as there's still a bit of football to be played until then." The 23-year-old has represented Northern Ireland at under-17, 19 and 21 level and admits he is 'proud' to have played for his country.

"I was always very proud to play for my country and had some great trips away and various age groups," Wilson continued. "Playing international football and playing against some top players was always a great experience."


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