Photo - steelmenonline.co.uk
When Hearts sold Alex Young to Everton at the beginning of 1961 manager Tommy Walker didn’t have to cast his net too far for a replacement. He spent £15,000 to bring striker Willie Wallace from Raith Rovers. ‘Wispy’ made his debut at Tynecastle in a 2-1 win over Dundee in April 1961 and would go on to become a huge success, becoming the club’s top scorer in the four years that followed. He scored a remarkable 34 league goals during season 1963-64 and 33 league goals the following season. He was also part of the Hearts team that won the League Cup in 1962 and came within one goal of lifting the league championship in 1965.
However, at the beginning of season 1966/67, Wallace’s form didn’t quite reach the heights of previous seasons and there were rumours Rangers had shown more than a passing interest. It was all the more surprising therefore when Celtic manager Jock Stein paid £30,000 to Hearts to take Wispy to the east end of Glasgow. Months later, he was part of the Celtic side that became the first British team to lift the European Cup. He was to spend five hugely successful years in Glasgow winning every domestic honour as well as another appearance in the European Cup Final of 1970 only to lose to Feyenoord.
Jock Stein set about rebuilding Celtic after that game with youngsters such as Kenny Dalglish, Davie Hay and Lou Macari being given their chance. Aged 31, Wallace was one of the casualties and moved to Crystal Palace in 1971. Sadly, his career down south was not successful and he returned to Scotland with Dumbarton within a year.
In 1975, Wallace moved to the Leichhardt Tigers in the Australian league in a life-changing move. Although he moved back to Scotland for brief spells with Partick Thistle and Highland League side Ross County as well as a spell as coach at Dundee, Wallace missed the life in Australia. In 1980, he returned ‘down under’ only this time for good and continued his coaching career as well as running his own sports business.
Now aged 70, Willie Wallace is still active in Australia and recently helped arranged a friendly between Brisbane Roar and Celtic. Today Willie Wallace still recommends Australian talent to the club where he enjoyed most of his success as a player - Celtic.