Former Institute goalkeeper Corey Wilson fulfils footballing dream in New Zealand

As the world continues to battle the global Covid 19 pandemic, one Derry man decided lockdown represented the perfect time to fulfil a life-long footballing dream.

Corey Wilson with his partner Becks Green and their son Marley, loving life in New Zealand.
Corey Wilson with his partner Becks Green and their son Marley, loving life in New Zealand.

Since his formative years playing in the streets of Derry with his soccer mad friends, former Institute goalkeeper Corey Wilson, always wanted to be the man wearing the gloves. The goalkeeping gloves that is!

It was a fascination enhanced by his time in the Irish League and when an unlikely opportunity presented itself to design and develop his own branded gloves, Wilson was quick off his line to grab it with both hands and he hasn’t looked back.

“I’m an apprentice glazier and earning half decent money but during lockdown I decided to finally start to put a plan in place in order to fulfil a personal dream of mine to try and bring out my own glove,” explained Wilson.

Nelson Suburbs FC goalkeeper Corey Wilson models his new keeper glove range, which are now on sale. Picture by Tim Cuff

“I’ve always thought about doing it but never had the courage to just go for it. However, after the first lock down I lost my job and while I was only out of work for about week, that one week made me realise I need to do something to provide myself and the family with a bit more security.

“I started with my design and then talked to a few suppliers through the Internet but I found a job again a week later and didn’t think any more about it until we had the second lockdown. I was off work for about three weeks this time and I started thinking about the gloves again and this time I just went for it.

“I was sponsored by a guy called James Walter Wasley from Christchurch and he’s the CEO and owner of the Beorgan Goalkeeper Gloves company so he hooked me up and the rest is history.

“I got a designer to help me with the logo and got 10 or 15 pairs made and while I only sold a few, I got a wee article in a newspaper over here and have emails from Auckland and Wellington from people enquiring about buying them which is pretty cool. I know it’s not going to be an overnight sensation but it’s a wonderful little hobby for me and something I always wanted to do.

Corey Wilson in action for Institute.

“I’m pretty chuffed that I can wear my own branded gloves next season and what’s also pretty cool is when kids and people ask me which gloves I wear, I can tell them I wear my own brand which will be a real kick.”

Wilson moved to New Zealand back in February 2017 after a former ’Stute team-mate Davitt Walsh put out an SOS call on behalf of Nelson Suburbs Football Club, looking for a goalkeeper.

After a few telephone conversations with Limavady native and Nelson coach, Ryan Stewart, Wilson decided to quit his job in Sainsbury’s, pack his bags and jet across the world to begin a whole new life.

“I’m out here five years next February," added the ex-Dergview net-minder. "Davitt Walsh, whom I played with at ’Stute, came out here to play for the same team and put a random message up on Facebook, something like ‘Nelson Suburbs F.C. are looking for any decent goalkeepers who have played in either the Irish League Premier Division or Championship and are up for an adventure.’

“I sent Davitt a message saying I would be keen and he said that he would pass my number on to a guy called Ryan Stewart.

“I was working a night-shift in Sainsbury’s at the time and got a phone call about 1am one morning and it was from this guy with a Limavady accent saying, ‘Do you fancy coming over to New Zealand to play football?’. To be honest I thought it was one my mates taking the hand, especially as he had the same accent as us, so I told him I’d think about it but to give me a ring back in a few days.

“I didn’t think anything more of it until he rung be back a few days later and said, ‘Honestly, are you up for this and do you fancy coming over and playing for us? We’ll sort your flight, get you accommodation, a car and we’ll get you a job.’

“I have to admit it sounded too good to be true, but then he added, ‘Only thing is, we need you over here next week!’

“I told him I had a good full-time job in Sainsbury’s but he explained the season was starting in a month’s time and they were nearly half-way through pre-season. I had a big decision to make but just thought, ‘Why not?’ I took a leap of faith and haven’t regretted it.”

After a number of months in Nelson, Corey met his partner of four years, Becks Green, and the couple has set down roots in New Zealand.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though for the Clooney native who has had to overcome a lot since making the switch. Indeed he suffered a major set-back in 2018 when a nasty clash of heads during a game for Tasman United effectively ended his stint with the National League club and left him out of the game for a number of months.

Now, however, his only focus is on the forthcoming season which gets underway in March.

“I signed for Nelson Suburbs and played locally but there’s a summer league, which is the National League, and that’s a bigger team than Suburbs League. I played for two years with Tasman in the National League from 2017 and that was very enjoyable," he added.

"You got to travel the country but in the very first game of the 2018 season I suffered a pretty bad clash of heads. I was concussed and the injury put me out for a few months. I was off work and everything, as it was a pretty bad head clash.

“I remember the game was held up for a good 30 or 40 minutes as we waited on an ambulance and I didn’t really kick a ball again for Tasman for about a year and a half.

“I was really unlucky at Tasman because I was actually in competition with the ex-Wellington Phoenix professional keeper, Keegan Smith, who joined us after playing professional. It was me and him battling it out for the number one spot and I actually got the start ahead of him for the first game of the season but then suffered that head clash and didn’t kick a ball again for them.

“I’m now back playing with Nelson Suburbs and while we didn’t have the best of seasons last year, we’ll start pre-season for next year on February 1st which isn’t too far away. We are looking to have a good solid six/eight weeks pre-season before the league starts.”

The Waterside man is enjoying life in Nelson and admits the friendly community feel in the city reminds him of home and he hopes to return to Derry in the summer for the first time in more than three years.

It promises to be an emotional visit with Corey revealing he can’t wait for his father, Davy Clifford, family and friends to finally meet his new son, Marley though he’s grateful social media and Zoom calls in particular have allowed him stay in touch with home.

“Nelson is a lovely community and reminds me of home because everybody seems to know everybody,” he explained, “Especially in the footballing community, everyone knows someone you know because it’s not a big population.

“It’s a little tiny place on the South Island and football is big in our small community. It’s because of football that I’ve met so many friends and people who have all made me feel very welcome which is nice when you are moving to other side of the world. I have fitted into life pretty well and have been well looked after by the club. I’m pretty lucky to be honest.

“With Nelson Suburbs, it isn’t a lot of money but when I arrived they looked after me in terms of getting me accommodation and a car. Whenever I met Becks and we had Marley, I was happy enough with the club using my accommodation and car for someone else to get a chance to come over and experience what I had for the first couple of years.

“Social media has been great for me. Going on Facebook and stuff like that means I don’t feel so far away from home. I phone my mum, Vanessa, literally every other day and I phone my dad maybe once a week or once every two weeks. They keep me updated on everything back home. That makes it so easy for me living here in New Zealand because I’m able to contact my friends and family regularly, otherwise I would probably struggle because I’m a pretty much a ‘home bird’. With social media though, it doesn’t actually feel like I’m 32 hours away, it feels like I’m just around the corner.

“Me and Becks went to Derry three years ago and are looking forward to going back in July. While my mum came out when Marley was born, which was pretty cool, no one else in my family has met him yet so I can’t wait for everyone to finally meet him in person. We are really looking forward to going back home in the summer as a trip back is definitely overdue.”