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League Two

'I closed my eyes and thought of the net rippling,' says Wilson

28 May 2022

Port Vale striker James Wilson was thrilled to sign off his most prolific season in English football with a goal at Wembley Stadium in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final.

He added his name to the scoresheet in the 24th minute, heading in from close range to double the Valiants’ advantage in the first period.

The Vale forward’s technique was simple: close your eyes and think of the back of the net.

“I just saw it ricochet off the bar, then I thought to myself, ‘this is my moment’, so I threw my head at, closed my eyes a bit and saw it ripple the net, and that was that,” he explained.

“This is why we play football; this is what it’s for and this is why I’m here.”

Darrell Clarke’s side ran out 3-0 winners over Mansfield Town under the arch to achieve promotion.


“It was tough,” he noted. “There wasn’t a lot left in the tank after the 120 minutes at Swindon in the Semi-Fin but it’s all definitely worth it. We were disappointed with the performances in the run-in because we didn’t get automatics, but what a way to do it.

“My friends and family have seen me win at Wembley and get Man of the Match, and it’s just fantastic. It’s my first one on the TV with my first trophy as well. It will be going straight in the cabinet with the winner’s medal.”

The 26-year-old has hit new heights this season after making the switch to Staffordshire in the summer.

That goal made it 15 in all competitions for the 26-year-old, who finishes the term as the Valiants’ leading marksman.

“I’ve got the bragging rights to the changing room this season,” he smiled. “It’s four in my last four now.

“I had some confidence going into the Play-Offs on the back of a goal but before that I hadn’t scored for a while. I’ve been building and building on that. It’s my highest goals tally and my highest appearance tally. I want to build on the goals and the appearances this season going forward into League One.”

And, according to Wilson, that strike is on par with a brace on his Premier League bow for Manchester United in 2014.

“With the two on my debut, it’s definitely in my top three, and to score on the hallowed turf at Wembley is absolutely fantastic,” he added.

Boss Clarke expressed his delight for the frontman, speaking post-victory, having played a significant part in his development this campaign.

“What a player,” he said. “At the back end of the season, he’s produced the goods. I love the kid. I know how to manage the kid and he’s got unbelievable talent. He’ll tell you he’s probably enjoying his football the most he ever has in his career.”

“I’m enjoying absolutely every minute of this season,” Wilson added. “The players have gelled massively, and we had a lot of recruitment through the summer, and the gaffer has been a massive part of that, and Andy Crosby as well. It’s right down from Carol and Kevin – the owners – the players, the fans and the medical staff at this Club.

“The supporters have been brilliant through the season and through the Play-Offs. It was a massive turnout today and I can’t thank them enough.”

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