WANTAWAY winger Ryan Williams may have had his “head turned” by false promises from the Championship before quitting Rotherham United, manager Paul Warne believes.
The Australian international turned down a new contract earlier this summer and was seeking a move to a second-tier side before eventually joining the Millers' League One rivals, Portsmouth, last month.
Warne suspects Williams anticipates a deal was in the pipeline until he was forced to lower his sights and head to former club Pompey
“I'm disappointed he's gone,” the Rotherham boss said. “I spoke to Ryan many times last season about staying on.
“When I spoke to him, he thought he would have an opportunity in the Championship. In fairness, I thought he would as well.
“However, I know how a lot of people tell stories in football ... 'Yeah, you're definitely on our list'. They get the players excited. I knew a couple of Championship clubs who liked him and had spoken to him.
“The player gets his head turned a little bit. That's what's happened. The Championship club he wanted possibly didn't come forward, then Portsmouth did. I can't put words into his mouth. This is just what I think.”
Perth-born Williams spent a season in the second tier with the Millers last term after helping them win promotion from League One in his first year.
Warne also wonders whether the 25-year-old, who has just become a father, may have been open to a return to AESSEAL New York Stadium once he realised his hopes of remaining at a higher level weren't going to materialise.
“Maybe he just thought it had got too far for him to come and talk to us again,” the manager said.
“He might have wanted a change of scenery. He's been down there before. He's got relationships down there. I do know his sister-in-law lives down there and has just had a baby. Maybe he has personal reasons for going down there.”
After his departure, Williams was disparaged by some Rotherham supporters on social media, a development which perturbed his former boss.
“I don't like the thought of our fans criticising any of our players for leaving,” Warne said. “The players are here, they get paid to do a job and they give it their best.
“If they then choose to move on then so be it. You don't have to be 'haters'. It's just the way that it is. They're not being offensive to fans personally.
“He wanted to play in the Championship. You can't blame him for that. It probably didn't work out as well as he wanted and he thought that Portsmouth was his best move.
“He's joining a team that have aspirations to go up, like us. I sincerely wish him luck, apart from when he plays us.”
This article first appeared in the Advertiser