Premier League Career: Blackburn Rovers (1992-1999), Leeds United (1999-2004)
Jason Wilcox was one of the unsung heroes of Blackburn Rovers’ title-winning success in 1995. A product of Blackburn’s youth academy, he enjoyed his career with Rovers, being on their books for a decade. On his departure in December 1999 for Leeds United, he was the club’s longest-serving player. It was during this period that he managed to win three caps for England.
He joined Blackburn at the age of 16. His youth team manager at the time, Jim Furnell described him as “one of the best young midfielders in English football.” He would eventually make 271 league appearances for Blackburn, captaining the side on occasion too. It was at a time where Jack Walker’s multi-millions saw the club emerge from also-rans in the Second Division to become serious challengers for the Premier League title. Walker signed the likes of Alan Shearer, Stuart Ripley and Tim Flowers for vast sums of money but Wilcox was a proven success from Blackburn’s academy and was well-trusted by the management team at Ewood Park of Kenny Dalglish and Ray Harford.
Playing on the left wing of Blackburn’s 4-4-2 formation, he formed an excellent understanding on the left-side of the field with Graeme Le Saux. It was Wilcox’s job to provide the crosses and key passes for the original ‘SAS’ partnership of Shearer and Chris Sutton to gobble up the goals. In the 1994-1995 title-winning campaign, he picked up two early season red cards in away matches against Arsenal and Nottingham Forest. However, he eventually settled down, popping up with some crucial goals and a number of assists to help Blackburn end their 81-year wait for a top-flight championship. Whilst it was the likes of Shearer, Sutton and skipper Tim Sherwood who took the plaudits, it was the likes of Wilcox that played just as a pivotal part to help them to their success.
Unfortunately, lengthy injury problems restricted Jason’s impact on the first-team spotlight in the seasons to come and eventually, Blackburn’s decline saw them slip out of the Premier League just four seasons after winning the title. With the emergence of the promising Damien Duff, Blackburn elected to cash in on Wilcox just before the end of the 20th century and Leeds paid £4 million for his services.
He scored on his Leeds debut and his excellent initial form saw him called into Kevin Keegan’s provisional squad for the 2000 European Championships, winning caps in pre-tournament matches against France and Argentina. Unfortunately, injury denied him his place in the competition as he was replaced by Gareth Barry.
Jason bounced back from this crushing disappointment and helped his club side reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2001. Leeds though couldn’t take their promise onto the next level and eventually, crippling financial pressures saw them being forced to sell their top stars. In 2004, the inevitable happened and they were relegated. Wilcox was released following their demise from the Premier League and he joined Leicester City on a one-year deal. He finished his career with Blackpool in 2006.
After retiring from football, he took time out from the game before joining the commentary staff of BBC Radio Lancashire for a year, as well as having his own weekly column in the Lancashire Telegraph. In 2013, he joined Manchester City as an Academy Director which is a position he still holds today.