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Keith Wilson Royal Marines

By RMFA Historian Shaun Foster

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1977 Tunney Cup Winner Keith Wilson.jpg
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Keith Wilson PO24346G Royal Marines career 1965 - 1982

Born in Preston Lancashire in 1945 Keith’s boyhood hero was Preston North End & England legend Sir Tom Finney CBE. Like most children growing up he had dreams and his was to be a professional footballer for Preston North End and at one stage it seemed within his clutches when his School PE teacher promised him a trial, however that never materialised and he decided on a career with the Royal Marines and so began a journey that would create so many friendships and memories. Having signed on the dotted line in December 1965 aged 20 he reported for duty at Royal Marines Depot Deal in January 1966 joining 842 Troop. 

On completion of training in October 1966 he joined 40 Commando based in Singapore. During his time there he played with some great players/characters of RM football, such players as Dave Nicholson, Nick Carter, Johnny Freeman, Jimmy Foy, Colin Woodward, Derek Woodward, Mick Greer, Curly Hillson, Paul Bosas, Noddy Dunn and RSM George Albert Bray B.E.M his team manager. As Keith was leaving Singapore the conveyor belt of Corps players kept rolling with more great players turning up such as Raymond Johnston, Terry Glover & Lenny Anderson.

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1966-67 40 Commando RM Football Team Singapore

Back row L to R Ginge Curran (Manager), Colin Woodward, Danny Docherty, Dave Nicholson, Phil Jones, Doc Barr

Front row L to R Keith Wilson, Derek Woodward, Nick Carter, Jimmy Foy, Mick Greer.

During his 18 months in Singapore he also represented the Brigade team under Manager C/Sgt Stevens which consisted of 40 Cdo, 42 Cdo & 3 Cdo Brigade players. Keith names players such as the 42 Cdo RM contingent of Willie Turnbull, George Malhan, Dave O'Leary, Sammy Samways, John Maxwell, Mick Woods, Pete Best & a player who Keith says was the best player on the Island, Dave "Nobby" Clark. Other 42 Cdo RM players who turned up a few months prior to Keith leaving were Jimmy Murray, Mick Hardy, Jimmy Hardman, Mickey Blythe, Alex Scott & Jock Hickey, and 3 Cdo Brigade players Tony Higgins & Davie Crockatt. It was during this time that Keith forged a good partnership with Brigade player Tony Higgins and 42 Commando's Dave Clark, they would make a formidable WM Formation at 4, 5 & 6. Higgy was a leader and would always encourage Keith & Nobby to win every tackle, every header and would even things up if they got kicked around. All three RM Units played in the local league against the local Army teams & 3 strong RAF teams from Changi, Seletar & Tengah (who trained full time).

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Depot RM Deal Tunney cup team action at RM Deal, Fardoe (1), Higgins (4), Wilson & Howie

As a young Corps player at that time you have never lived unless you had played under lights and did just that at HMS Terror against the Matelots with all their supporters, wives included "All tanked up" shouting abuse and the Royals supporters, wives also included giving abuse back made for a great atmosphere. Keith mentions he didn't win any trophies out in Singapore, partly due to seasons being disrupted by the Hong Kong riots, a few months at Sea on HMS Bulwark as part of the Aden withdrawal which included visits to Masirah Island & Salalah Island Oman, and a return to the Nee Soon Barracks Singapore via an RFA ship to attend his Junior Command Course.

He left 40 Commando and Joined 41 Commando, Bickleigh Barracks, Plymouth in 1968 where he played in his first Tunney Cup Competition and he had joined a strong a 41 Cdo team with the likes of Bob Fardoe, Dusty Miller, Dave Clark, Davy Hunt & Richie Wassell.

It was during this time he was selected for the Corps team alongside the likes of Dusty Miller, Richie Wassell, George Kirtley, Archie Houston, Bill Howie, Dave Clark, Davy Hunt, Stewart Lindsay, Willy Turnbull, Curly Barlow, Josh Holly, Andy Kerr, Nick Jennings, Billy Harrison & Bob Fardoe, with Ray Johnston & Terry Glover also coming back from 40 Cdo and Tony Taylor & Fred Elliot also came into the team and Johnny Bickford was the manager.

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1968/69 Royal Marines Football Team

Back row L to R Davey Crockatt, Dave Williams, McNeil, Geordie Kirtley, Willie Turnbull, Josh Holley, Bob Hickie, Johnny Bickford.

Front row L to R Andy Kerr, Keith Wilson, Maxie Maxwell, Nick Jennings, Dod Malhan, Alex Scott.

In 1968 he also got selected for the Royal Navy under coaches Jimmy Coates and Johnny Bickford with other RM players Stewart Lindsay, Davy Hunt, Dave Clark, Nicky Jennings, Curly Barlow & Richie Wassell. Jimmy put him between Derek Godwin and Davy Hunt, (a modest Keith jokes that Stevie Wonder could have played well between them two).

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1968 Royal Navy Football Association 

Back Row L to R David Roberts, Keith Wilson RM, TBC3, Hunt, Mick Rogers, Brian Crawford, Derek Godwin.

Front Row L to R Alec Beattie, Sammy Malcolmson, Glyn Pughsley, Stewart Lindsay RM, Richie Wassell RM, TBC13

In 1969 he was playing for the Corps and Navy and during a Corps game he was told that he had been selected for the PT2s course that started a few days later. So he left 41 Cdo at the rush and that Easter he was selected to go to the Channel Islands for a two game football tour with the Royal Navy, his PT Course instructor said it was ok but don't get injured ! Jimmy Coates was still the coach on that trip. His first PTI Staff Instructor at CTCRM, C/Sgt Murray Alexander told him on joining the Staff,  "Always remember you are a GD Marine 1st, a PTI 2nd, and a Footballer 3rd" luckily Keith found a balance a managed to represent not only Corps but the Navy, Combined Service and Civilian teams during his career.


On Wednesday 4th March 1970 he won the Inter Commands Trophy when the Royal Marines beat Air Command 2-0 thanks to goals from Houston & McNeil. His Navy teammates Sammy Malcolmson & Derek Godwin played for the Air Command that day, Derek was their player coach & Sammy went on to play in New Zealand and played for them in the World Cup, he was an old Fashioned Center Forward and Keith told me he never did much against the Corps defence on that occasion.

1970 Inter Commands Winners Royal Marine

1970 Inter Commands Winners Royal Marines beat Naval Air Command 2-0

Back row L/R RM Chairman?, Johnny Bickford, Jimmy Hardman, Stuart Lindsay, McNeil, Dod Malhan, Maxie Maxwell, Curly Barlow, Ray Johnson, Dave Williams, Davey Crocket RN (trainer).

Front row L to R Alex Scott, Terry Glover, Keith Wilson, Andy Kerr, Archie Houston.

After breaking into the Royal Navy team in 1968 he went on to play lots of games and was eventually presented with his cap in the mid seventies, he enjoyed his time immensely with the Royal Navy team playing with lots of great players both RM & RN alike, lots of whom you will see in the accompanying team photographs. The RN team trained with the professionals of Portsmouth FC doing joint training sessions where the RN defence would play with Portsmouth's forward line against Portsmouth's defence with the RN forward line, this experience would prove both eye opening and an invaluable experience into how the Pro's play. The Navy always played against strong teams such as County Teams, FA Amateur Xl, Welsh FA Xl, Oxford Uni, Cambridge Uni, Loughborough College, Leeds Carnegie College, Dutch Navy away at Den Helder and of course the Army & RAF in the Inter Service fixtures. He played numerous positions for the RN, sweeper, Central Defender, Midfield & Left Full Back.

Keith recalls a game in London that was called off whilst they were already in transit to the game, so the RN boss at the time Lt Cdr John Ennis who was also on the FA Council arranged for the team to have a tour of Wembley Stadium, "It was great to be in the dressing rooms and walk out of the tunnel to see the hollowed turf that was the stage of Englands remarkable 4-2 World Cup final victory over Germany, and to also climb up up to the royal box.


Another story that he fondly recalls is that of Major General Loudon who was his old CO from his 40 Commando days, and whilst playing at Fratton Park Portsmouth he would come into the Changing room after the game to shake hands and thank Keith for representing the Corps. There was some good Corps players coming through into the RN team during his later years and they had far much more success in terms of winning Inter Services such players as Bill Howie, Cliff Morgan, Frankie Ovard, Tiv Lowe, Paul Dixon & John O'Connell.

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1970 RN 1 v Southampton FC 4

Back ro L to R Merriman, Geof Atkey, Keith Wilson RM, Dalton RM, Tony Higgins RM, Roy Wilkinson (Capt) Front row L to R George Welsh, Beatie, Peter Shackloth, Ray Johnston RM, Glyn Pughsley.

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1970 RNFA v FA Xl, Keith Wilson (dark shirt) & Derek Godwin marking the two FA Xl strikers (White shirts)

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1970 RNFA v FA Xl, RN GK Harmer contests the ball as Wilson covers the line and Godwin looks on.

Keith was selected for the Combined Services (UK) twice. In 1970 he toured Malta & Cyprus alongside fellow Royal Marine Ray Johnston and 4 other Royal Navy players with the Coach being from the Army. After missing out in 1971 due to an injury that required a cartridge operation he was again selected for the Combined Services in 1972 when John Ellis RM was the coach and they toured Gibraltar, other RM ranks on the tour were Ray Johnston, Tony Higgins, Tony Taylor, Jackie Freeman & also two RN players George Welsh & Mick Patterson. It ws a strong squad and they played Wycombe Wanderers in a warm up game prior to departing for Gibraltar. He also played in the western league for Barnstaple Town with Ray Johnston, Taunton Town and whilst at CTCRM he played for Topsham Town with Dave Clark, Dusty Miller, Fred Elliot and Dave Nicholson.

1970 Combined Services team Malta Cyprus

1970 Combined Services Football Tour Cyprus & Malta

Back row L to R Sgt A. Tagliaferro (RAF), Cpl A. Goucher (Army), SAC R. Tinsley (RAF), Sgt K. Oram (RAF), SAC M. Byron (RAF), Cpl K. Wilson (RM), WTR J. Merriman (RN), Sl A Coulton (Army), F/Sgt Connolly (RAF).

Front row L to R Mne R. Johnston (RM), Cpl K. Heath (Army), SAC J. Robinson (RAF), Lt Cdr John Ennis (RN), Fl/Lt C. Riley (RAF), Sqn Ldr P. Cooper (RAF), Sgt J. Smurthwaite (RAF), Sgt K. Tebbutt (RAF), REA D. Godwin (RN)


1970 Combined Services (UK) tour to Cyprus & Malta

L to R John Merriman (RN), Kenny Heath (Army), Derek Godwin (RN), Alan Goucher (Army), Keith Wilson (RM), Ray Johnston (RM), Alfie Caulton (Army).

HMS Intrepid 6 aside on Isle of

1973 HMS Intrepid Six aside team on the Isle of Capri

Keith, the only RM rank is pictured standing second from the left next to English actress & singer Gracie Fields.

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1973 HMS Intrepid v Gibraltar FA

HMS Intrepid Captain Keith Wilson (left) exchanges pennants with his Gibraltar counterpart

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1971 Royal Marines PT Branch Centenary Football Team

Back row L to R Keith Wilson, Willie Turnbull, Tony Higgins, Gordon Russell, Archie Houston, Dave Clark, John Ellis (Coach).

Front row L to R Pete Best, Alex Scott, Geoff Barrs, Viv Harris, Dave Nicholson, Johnny Bickford.

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1972 Royal Navy 1 v RAF 2

Back row L to R Huxtable, TBC, Vamplew, Merriman, Mick Patterson, Brian Crawford, George Welsh, Geof Atkey, Hocking, John Ellis RM (Coach)

Front row L to R Jackie Freeman RM, Ray Johnston RM, Cosker, Keith Wilson RM (Capt), Terry Lowndes, Tony Taylor RM, D Horton.

1972 Combined Services tour of Gibraltar

1972 Combined Services tour of Gibraltar

RN & RM Ranks on the tour were Tony Taylor RM, Keith Wilson RM, Tony Higgins RM, Ray Johnston RM, Jackie Freeman RM, John Ellis RM (Coach), Mick Patterson RN, George Welsh RN, Lt Cdr John Ennis RN.

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1975 Royal Marines Football Team

Back row L to R Ron Murray, Geoff Barrs, Peter Hobbs, Dinger Bell (Trainer), Bob Fardoe, Dave Clapson (Manager), Bill Sharp, Nobby Hall, Graham Griffin.

Front row L to R John O'Connell, Nicky Jennings, Keith Wilson, Cliff Morgan, Bill Howie.

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1975/6 Royal Marines Football Team

Back row L to R Ray "Pusser" Hill, TBC2, Mike Beaumont, Dusty Milly, Bill Sharp, Graham Griffiths.

Front row L to R Jimmy Foy, Paul Wolfe, Davie Crockatt, Tony Higgins, John O'Connell, Keith Wilson, Paddy McDowell.

I asked Keith to name the best coaches & players he played under & with and this is how he recalled:


John Ellis - I played more for John than anybody, he believed in me and was constantly encouraging me to do better. He played for John with the Corps, Portsmouth RN , Royal Navy & Combined Services. John was highly rated by the English FA & the FA of other countries.

Jackie Freeman - Jackie was John Ellis's "right hand" man. Very instrumental in my career, he gave it to you straight, good or bad, pushed me all the way.

Johnny Bickford - He gave me my start in the Corps team 1968, he was a former Corps & Navy player.

Jimmy Coates - He gave me my start in the Royal Navy team in the UK 1968. He played for Kingstonian's (top amateur team) and England Amateur team.


Ray Johnston - Very good player, had it all, good vision, knew the game, strong tackler, led by example, gave it all in every game. Gave excellent performances both at full back and in mid-field. he was coached from an early age and it showed. He had success before and after his Corps football career. I played with Ray on the Corps, Royal Navy and the Combined Services teams and also with Barnstable in the Western League.


Dave Clark - Very good player who really outstanding in the Far East area of operation, he was a classy mid-field player who played well for 42 Cdo, the Brigade team and the Joint Services team in Singapore. he was a player who read the game well and was very good on the ball. Due to service commitments he missed out on a lot of opportunities play regularly in UK but was still able to play for the Royal Navy and get selected for the Combined Services


Tony Taylor - A strong wide left sided player who was very quick and had probably the strongest left foot shot I have ever seen. Very good at dribbling at speed which in turn made him a great 1 v 1 one attacker. He played well for the Corps, Royal Navy and the Combined Services, he also had games for Deal Town while stationed at the Depot RM


John "George" Kirtley - A good Mid-field player who was old school, did the basics well, an intelligent player who read the game, he was a good man to get a team playing together, he joined the Corp later than most and I believe we never saw the best of George due to injuries prior to joining the Corps, on joining 40 Cdo I was told he had been running the team prior to my arrival. He was held in high regard by all, I first him saw him play at a Tunney Cup in 1968 at Eastney, he scored two screamers from way out, and I was impressed by his running of a game, (a mid-field general in all aspects)

Tony Higgins - Higgy was a mainstay in every team he played on, very athletic for a big man, he enjoyed the challenge of every tackle, every header, he was constantly encouraging everybody. I first met him in Singapore 1966 and got to know him well by partnering him in the Brigade team out there, then back in UK I was alongside him for the Corps, Royal Navy and Combined services teams plus in the Deal winning Tunney Cup team. One of a kind and an asset to any team.


Davy Hunt - A classy full back who read the game so well, good with both feet, distribution was tremendous, and he was a tight marker who was good at shutting down opponents. When I first broke into the Corps and Royal Navy teams I played alongside Davie, he was constantly talking and let me know if I was not cutting it. He was very experienced, and I learned a great deal from him, a really good player


Lenny Anderson - To be honest I only ever played with Lenny one time (a Corps game) at the Long room which was cancelled at half-time and I played against when he was outside and was playing for Devon against Royal Navy West. I had heard so much about him from Davy Hunt and Ray Johnson and they were correct. He was Class, he made the game look easy, he did the simple things well and was always moving and talking and made everybody else better.


Stuart Lyndsay - A talented footballer who was on the books of Leicester City, I had heard about him when I was in Singapore and then when I got to UK I got to know him from playing in the Corps and Royal Navy team. Though short in stature, tremendous ability, good ball control, tricky, quick burst of speed, used to ping passes short or long with amazing accuracy. He played well for the teams I was on with him.


Frankie Ovard - A good wide player who loved to go at defenders and take them on at every opportunity, good dribbling skills, good ball control at speed and an real impact player "if ever there was one",  If you were one down, at the earliest opportunity feed the ball to Frankie (you would never get it back), But he usually scored or got a free-kick, he was that good. A confident player who was very much an individual match winner on many an occasion.


John O'Connell - I met John when he a very young slender youth at Deal, he was a talented player and read the game so well at such a young age. He was a driving force in any team he played, he was 100% action from the opening whistle, he was a skilled two footed player who was a tenacious tackler for one so slight, he could play in any position on the field and was a great asset to any team he played for. He may have been young and still growing, but his heart was fully 100%

Keith also mentioned that John O'Connell and Davy Coles were both members of HM

Royal Marine Band and they were two of the strongest tacklers I have ever played with.

Keith's venture into coaching:

Having completed his FA Preliminary Coaching Course in 1969 under course instructors Johnny Bickford & Jimmy Coates he would also go on to attain coaching awards in the USA. He was a member of the John Ellis soccer academy and was able to work alongside the United States Women's soccer team legends Mia Hamm, April Heinrichs and successful USA women's coach Jill Ellis (Daughter of John Ellis).


He was the coach of Calgary Kickers in the Canadian Professional league for 6 pre season fixtures on a tour of the West Coast of USA and one league game which they won 4-1 away at Winnipeg, former Corps Football Striker John Rich flew out to join Keith's team for pre season and did well in the short time Keith was manager !. Calgary played against a touring Middlesborough FC team managed by Bruce Rioch with Colin Todd & Brian Little as coaches, they played an indoor game and lost 2-0, it could have been 6 they were that good but just treated it as a practice game. Keith got fired the next day after a disagreement with the owners. Keith believes he is the only coach in the Canadian league with an 100% record, Played 1, Won 1, sacked!!.

Like most former footballer's he had his fair share of injuries during his playing career, 3 left knee operations (2 x Ligament reconstruction and a Cartilage op), 1 right knee cartilage op, 1 fractured Zygoma & 1 ankle ligament reconstruction.

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