‘Willy’ Wilson’s love and affection for Bradford (Park Avenue)

Avenue super fan Ronnie and Willy celebrating the club’s title win in 1995 at Trafford when the then-Emley player made a comeback appearance as a supporter

Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson is looking forward to making a one-off return to Bradford (Park Avenue), one of his most beloved clubs from his playing career, for a charity game.

Wilson, who had three spells with Avenue alongside one appearance as a supporter in 1995, will be linking up his old team-mates in an Avenue old boys team who will face Bradford City old boys on Sunday at Horsfall Stadium (kick off 12.30pm).

The match is part of the Avenue beer festival which raises money for Marie Curie and the Horsfall Community Trust.

“Avenue, Emley and Worksop are in my top three clubs and the top three places where I’m well-respected,” Wilson told Non League Yorkshire.

“I’m still in touch with a lot of people at Avenue and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone. 

“A lot of the lads I played with are playing like Benno (Wayne Benn), Chick (Andy Hayward), Lee Connor, Nicky Hey, (Stephen Ball) Bally, there’s loads more. 

“Maxy (Jason Maxwell) said he may come.”

Willy had three spells with Avenue under different managers – Gordon Rayner, Trevor Storton and finally Phil Sharpe.

Here’s Willy’s memories of those spells.

First Spell (1993/94)

Mark ‘Willy’ Wilson during his first spell with Avenue

“After leaving Frickley under Ronnie Glavin for disciplinary reasons I signed for Gordon Rayner.

“My debut was against Kidsgrove and I scored two and and assisted one.

“We won 3-2 and I picked up the man of the match award and my antics with the supporters afterwards adhered to the Avenue fans.

“I”m still remembered to this day.

“After a good season my relationship with the manager wasn’t as rosy as it was at first.

“So again another manager and I parted ways (around Christmas 1994) and re-signed for Ronnie Glavin who had taken the Emley job.

“For the last few games of that season at Emley I was suspended.

Willy at the famous Trafford game
Willy celebrating promotion with the Avenue fans during his one appearance as a supporter

“Avenue were going for the league so I was part of it before leaving I decided to turn up for the last day game at Trafford and go on the team coach with the fans.

“I remember the day because I had to catch two buses from Barnsley to get to the Jacob’s Wells pub in Bradford.

“The coach will have been leaving at 12.30pm so it will have been an eight o’clock start to get into the (Barnsley) Town (Centre) to get the bus.

“I turned up in Jacob’s Wells and everyone was cheering.

“When we got back to Bradford after the game the fans paid for a taxi to take me home to Barnsley.

“What a day with the Nutty Boys and of course Ronnie Bottomley. I loved that man.

“He latched onto me because I never sat still on the bus.

“When I used to be running up and down the bus Ronnie used to be behind me doing Benny Hill impressions.

“He used to have his cliches like mark ‘em tighter, referee you’re a cabbage. 

“You could him during the game and the opposition were like ‘who’s that’?

“If it wasn’t for the club he would have had nothing in his life.

“People like him are priceless.”

Second Spell (1999/00)

The Avenue side in 1999/00

“After three seasons with Emley I was sold to Harrogate Town which again started well but there was the human fireball incident on the bus so I was sacked for gross misconduct.

“That’s when my second spell with Avenue began.

“Trevor Storton took a punt on me but let’s say things didn’t go too well on the first away trip.

“I had been in Blackpool on the razzle so when I turned up I was still giddy.

“I had my bag which was full of masks, wigs, inflatable hammers, etc.

“I made the mistake of getting them out and putting on a half-an-hour show.

“The lads were egging me on and were in hysterics.

“Little did I know, Trevor was absolutely raging so my second spell didn’t last very long.

“I was on my travels again and I was sold to Ossett Town.” 

Third Spell (2006/07)

Willy during his third spell

“My third return to Avenue was the most memorable under Phil Sharpe who I drunk, fought and partied with.

“He was a larger than life character and we hit it off years earlier together at Farsley Celtic.

“His assistant was Clive Freeman who I played with at Emley.

“Both are great friends.

“We had a good side on-and-off-the-pitch with a mix of talent, youth, flair, aggression and togetheness and we were very successful.

“We had players like Bally (Stephen Ball), Parkesy (Simon Parkes), Nezza (Neil Grayston) and Redders (Neil Redfearn) – too many to mention.

“Throughout my time at Avenue I played with some great players and friends and I have so many great memories.

“Still to this day I keep in contact with a lot of them.

“I enjoyed playing alongside Neil Redfearn – what a top bloke.

“Fit, comfortable with the ball and I think our combined age was over 100!

“He brought the best out of me and I always remember one comment before a game away at Warrington.

“He said ‘stop f’ing about and listen’.

“He said ‘you don’t realise how good you are’.

“I looked in his eyes and puffed out my chest and me and him bossed the game.

“To be told that by an experienced professional inspired me to keep playing and play as high and as long as I can.

“During that season we made a couple of videos, one for Neil Redfearn’s 1000th appearance and another for the end of the season party which left everyone in hysterics.”

Willy doing an impression of Avenue super fan Ronnie
Willy doing an impression of Avenue super fan Mad Pete

The Neil Redfearn video

Willy playing for Wombwell Town recently and he still plays with passion and commitment – a great example to younger players who are just starting their Non League journeys. Picture: Alan Percival

If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page. There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams. 

Our work is playing an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

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