Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (1992-1993, 1995-1996)
Paul Wilkinson played professional football for 18 years and even won four international Under-21 caps for England in the mid-1980s. He was a stereotypical target man who was not shy of tussling with defenders and coming out on top in some bruising battles over the years. Wilkinson also had a knack of finding that extra yard of space in the penalty area which probably explains why he scored more than 150 goals during his career in over 650 appearances.
Wilkinson was part of the last Everton squad that were champions of England back in the 1986-1987 campaign, scoring 12 times in their winning team that pushed Merseyside rivals Liverpool FC into second spot. He joined Middlesbrough in 1991 from Watford and was Lennie Lawrence’s last marquee signing at the club. He scored 24 goals in his debut season, including a final minute strike away at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers which took Middlesbrough into the inaugural Premier League season as Division Two runners-up to Ipswich Town.
Wilkinson quickly found his feet in the newly-formed Premier League. On the opening weekend, he scored Middlesbrough’s first goal at this level; a 63rd minute effort in the 2-1 defeat at Highfield Road to Coventry City. A week later, he scored twice in the shock 4-1 defeat of reigning English champions Leeds United and reached double figures despite Boro’s relegation to Division One. By the time Middlesbrough won promotion again in 1995, Wilkinson had become a rarely used figure and he was eventually let go on a free transfer by Bryan Robson to make way for international talent to arrive on Teeside.
Barnsley signed him and he was recruited to play alongside his former colleague at Middlesbrough in John Hendrie. In April 1997, he scored one of the goals in the Tykes’ 2-0 win at home to Bradford City which secured their automatic promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. However, he wouldn’t be going up with them – moving onto Millwall before winding down at Northampton Town in 2000.
Wilkinson moved straight into coaching. He has managed the reserve teams at Grimsby Town and Cardiff City and was Rob Page’s assistant manager during his brief tenure at Northampton. He is back at Blundell Park as Grimsby assistant currently to the experienced Russell Slade and looks set to become a manager in the future.