WHEN SHEFFIELD United’s preparations for the new League One season begin in earnest this evening, Kevin Wilson could be forgiven for thinking what might have been.
Only a flourish of a physiotherapist’s pen prevented the Ilkeston manager from turning professional at Bramall Lane but, the former Northern Ireland striker admitted last night, he won’t look back in anger.
United’s loss proved to be Derby County’s gain.
Not to mention Ipswich Town, Notts County and Chelsea.
“I don’t think many people know it but I was joining United right at the start of my career,” Wilson told The Star.
“Harry Haslam was in charge and I’d actually signed. I was still with Banbury at the time.
“There must have been someone with a medical background on the board because after I’d done my medical they came to me and tore up the contract because, apparently, I had a knee injury which meant I wasn’t fit.
“Only a couple of weeks later I went to Derby and I suppose the rest is history.”
Wilson’s brief flirtation with United will not be the only talking point at the New Manor Ground.
Tonight’s match is positively stuffed full of sub-plots.
United’s manager and Wilson’s namesake Danny, whose son, Laurie, is expected to line up against the visitors, was an international colleague with the province while Harry Maguire’s brother, Joe, also represents the Derbyshire club.
“Danny was a really tenacious player but he was a damn good one too,” Wilson said.
“He had exactly the same qualities he’s brought to management and I’m delighted to see him doing well.
“He’s a really good bloke and it’s good to see British coaches make a success of things.
“Danny’s superb at his job and I’m sure he’ll get them up this year. He knows we’ll be rooting for him here.”
While United hope their first friendly of the summer marks the start of the healing process following last season’s play-off final defeat, Ilkeston will be attempting to gather rather than regain momentum.
With the club having risen from the ashes of bankruptcy, Wilson and assistant Darren Caskey have overseen a remarkable transformation in fortune which includes promotion to the Northern Premier League Premier Division and the implementation of an ambitious project designed to help its young players follow in the illustrious footsteps of their footballing mentors.
“Our remit isn’t just to look after the first team,” Wilson explained. “It goes right the way down to grassroots.
“I’ve just come back from Twente in Holland where I’ve been doing my academy badges and it was fascinating to see Steve McLaren in action and experience a different way of doing things.
“We’re very thorough in what we do.
“All of the games get videoed and the players get copies afterwards to help their development. When the new chairman came in he built classrooms and facilities like that so we can offer the whole package.
“The lads get schooled here, they can eat here and have a structured sporting programme as well.”
“We’ve had a couple of lads take the step up,” Wilson continued.
“Tyrell Waite has just gone to Notts County and there are a few others who are being looked at too.
“Sheffield United know we’ve got a good set-up and might look at a couple too.”