Big Interview: Bamber Bridge captain Macauley Wilson

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Craig Salmon talks to Bamber Bridge captain and former Manchester United youth star Macauley Wilson

Marcus Rashford’s crusade to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children – particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic – does not surprise one of his former team-mates.

Bamber Bridge captain Macauley Wilson grew up alongside the Manchester United and England superstar when the pair were team-mates in the Red Devils’ youth ranks.

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Rashford received an MBE last year for services to vulnerable children after he successfully lobbied the Government into a U-turn over its free school meals policy during lockdown, ensuring children in need would receive meals across the summer.

Macauley Wilson (photo:Ruth Hornby)Macauley Wilson (photo:Ruth Hornby)
Macauley Wilson (photo:Ruth Hornby)

The striker has also acted with dignity and honour this year despite being the victim of vile racist abuse alongside Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after the trio missed penalties in the final of Euro 2020.

Wilson spent a decade playing alongside Rashford and he remembers a supremely gifted footballer who was humble and down-to-earth.

“I played with him for years growing up and we all definitely knew he was destined for big things,” said Wilson, who also lists Aston Villa loan star Axel Tuanzebe as a former team-mate at United.

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“As a team-mate, we always knew he was our best player and was capable of magic during games, even at that age.

“I think he was sponsored by Nike at the age of 10-years-old.

“You just knew about Marcus – obviously you know when you see a good player.

“He knew he was good but he was always a really humble lad.

“It just shows – he’s done brilliant both on and off the pitch.”

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Wilson was picked up by United from a very early age and spent his formative years wearing the famous red, white and black colours.

Unfortunately, his time at Old Trafford ended when it came to handing out scholarships at the age of 16 but he was picked up by Blackpool and went on to sign a professional deal with the Tangerines.

Unfortunately, he would only go on to make one senior appearance – in a Checkatrade Trophy tie against Everton Under-23s at Goodison Park.

After a 1-1 draw, the visitors progressed 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out. “That match ended up going to penalties and I scored,” said the defender. “I remember Everton had Darron Gibson playing, who obviously played for United and went on to have a good career.

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“We had a strong side out, though. Mark Yeates, who I play alongside now at Bamber Bridge, he was our captain.

“It was a really good night and a great win.”

Having enjoyed such a fine debut, why did it turn out to be his only solitary appearance at first-team level before he was released in 2017?

“There are always regrets obviously,” said Wilson, who is set to skipper Brig for Saturday afternoon’s trip to Stafford Rangers.

“Looking back, you think maybe I took it all for granted and that I should have worked harder when I was not in the team.

“But I do think I was a tiny bit unlucky.

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“It was the season Blackpool went up from League Two in the play-offs. I remember a couple of the coaches saying to me that I had a good chance of getting in the team because there were a few injuries.

“But the manager Gary Bowyer went with a centre-half at right-back, which I could understand because he went with experience.

“When you’re going for promotion, there is a chance that some managers may chuck a young lad in but at end of the day it’s all about opinions and I can understand why some managers would rather go with experience.”

Wilson departed Bloomfield Road and was snapped up by Bamber Bridge.

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His time at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium has had its fair share of ups and down.

Injuries have hindered his progression on occasions, while he missed out on appearing in the 2018 NPL First Division North play-off final due to suspension.

But having been handed the captain’s armband this season, Wilson has played a prominent role in Brig’s rise to fourth spot in the NPL Premier Division under manager Jamie Milligan.

Of their 17 league games, they have won 10 and are looking a good bet to finish in a play-off position this season.

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At 24-years-old, Wilson is still young but he finds himself as one of the seasoned campaigners in the squad.

Milligan has formed a squad brimming with exciting young talent and the skipper admits there is a real buzz around Irongate at the moment.

“The manager is brilliant,” he said. “He just tells us to go out and play, express ourselves.

“He gives us the licence to go and play football the way it should be played. He will tell us when we are not playing well enough.

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“I know there’s been a few times when we have gone in at half-time and he’s rifled one at us and it’s worked because we have gone out in the second half and won.

“I think all the lads would say they wouldn’t want any other manager. He just gives us that belief in our own ability.

“He does give us tactics and a gameplan at training on Thursday nights to help us go out and beat teams, but it’s basically about us going out and expressing ourselves.

“The manager and his assistant John Hills have built a really good, young squad.

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“There’s a lot of good, young, exciting talent like Ewan Bange, Rob Apter, Isaac Sinclair, Fin Sinclair-Smith.

“The fans enjoy watching us and we have just got to keep grounded and continue performing.”

Wilson revealed that there is a siege mentality within the squad, especially as they were tipped to be one of the teams fighting a battle at the other end of the table on the eve of the season.

“At the start of the season, the gaffer called us in and said, ‘Listen lads the bookies have us down as 100/1 to make the play-offs’,” said Wilson.

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“So before every game, we always have that in our minds. Obviously we had a rough start against Buxton, losing 3-0 but they have been flying this season and I don’t think they have lost yet in the league.

“But we have done really well since.

“We have just got to make sure we keep our heads down and take each game as it comes.”

Macauley Wilson admits missing out on Bamber Bridge’s 2018 play-off final victory is one of his biggest disappointments in football.

The defender was an integral member of Neil Reynolds’ side which ultimately won promotion from the NPL First Division North.

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Chris Marlow’s winning goal saw Brig defeat Prescot Cables at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium to seal their place in the NPL Premier Division but Wilson played no part as he was in the stands due to suspension.

“I got sent off in the game before the play-offs so missed out,” said Wilson.

“I was young, stupid and reckless and got myself a three-match suspension. I did play a lot that season, something like 25 games and it was my first season with Bamber Bridge.”

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