Ryan Williams: the Rotherham United man with nearly everything

By Paul Davis | 07/11/2018

Ryan Williams: the Rotherham United man with nearly everything
Ryan Williams

RYAN Williams has a wedding to plan, he's going to be a dad for the first time and he's in the best form of his career, yet something is still missing from the Rotherham United attacker's life.


Goals.


Whether playing out wide or ‘in the hole’ behind a lone striker, Williams has looked completely at home in the Championship since the Millers won promotion in manager Paul Warne’s first full season in charge.


But you have to go back to January 13 for the last time the Australian hit the net, in a 1-1 draw at Oldham Athletic.


“I set myself targets,” says the player who celebrated his 25th birthday late last month. “I can tell you, I'm nowhere near my goal one! 


“It's funny, though ... this time last season I think I had one or two goals and four or five assists to my name, but I wasn't playing as well as I am now.”


Warne, who snapped up Williams in the summer of 2017 after an injury-hit spell at Barnsley, believes the forward has the ability to play for a top second-tier side.


“He has to keep on improving, obviously, but his energy and ability to work for the team on and off the ball are hugely impressive,” the boss said. “Any team in any league wants that. 


“But he needs to add goals to his game. If he does, he can definitely take an upward step. He could go on to represent his country and step up higher in this league – go to a club in the top eight possibly. They might just see him as something different. 


“We have to try to get the best out of him. I think we are doing. His work ethic is second to none.”


The player, laid-back and driven in equal measure, has even loftier ambitions.


“I see myself playing higher, for sure,” he says. “My performances in the past few games, especially as a No 10, have been good. If I was to add some more goals and a few more assists to my game, then why not? 


“At the moment, I prefer it as a No 10. When I signed for Barnsley a few years back it was as a No 10. I drifted out wide from there.


“Why shouldn't I be able to play in a top-eight Championship side or even in the Premier League? You might as well aim there.”


Williams’ most high-profile misses have come at Leeds United earlier in the campaign and at Middlesbrough last week. Both times he latched on to low crosses but, with the net gaping at close range, directed his efforts straight at the goalkeeper.


Mention of those two incidents sees him screw up his face in frustration.


“I suppose you can say I was in the right spot at the right time,” he smiles grimly. “The Leeds one...I don't really remember that one too much. I was absolutely blowing a gasket just to get there. It came across and I just tried to...well, I can't really remember. 


“The one at Boro, it came across and I probably should have let it roll across my body a little bit more. I just tried to get a good contact on it. It ended up looking like I was kind of giving the goalkeeper the ball, which wasn't what I intended! If I scuff it, it goes in.”


Williams, who hit the target four times last term and has been on standby for the last two Australian squads, arrived at AESSEAL New York Stadium with a reputation for being injury-prone after his career stalled at the Reds following spells with Portsmouth, Fulham and Oxford United (loan).


His problem was a pelvic issue that went long undiagnosed. With the Millers, he has been available for every match, never misses training and works assiduously on his conditioning. 


A slim, tattooed figure sporting an Alice band can often be spotted working the cycling machines at Bannatyne's gym in Bramley as he tops up his fitness.


“What Ryan has got is an abundance of energy and pace,” Warne says. “And he has got spring that people don't give him credit for.


“He has got the bit between his teeth. He trains well, lives right, loves football and hopefully loves it with us before he goes and plays somewhere else. He will have the career he deserves. He is a real threat.”


The player adds: “I have played in the Championship for four different clubs now, but I've never been in a position where I can assert myself.
“I am enjoying working with the boys. It’s working out really well.


“I am happy off the pitch too, I recently got engaged, I've got a baby on the way, so there’s not really a lot for me to be unhappy about.”


He has played more games, 64, for Rotherham than for any other club since starting out in English football in 2011.


“I am fit and healthy and hungry to do well,” he continues. “I have no hard feelings towards anyone at Barnsley. 


“I think I was 20 when I got injured there. It carried on until I was about 23. That's a good chunk of a really important part of your career when, physically, there's a lot of developing to do. 


“I think I did miss out on that a little bit. That's why this season you're probably seeing a more comfortable, better me. I've got last season behind me, a season where I learned a bit, grew a bit, improved. I've gone into this season confident and I'm enjoying myself.”


'Willo' and his partner, who have moved to the area from their previous Wakefield base, should be in the delivery room some time in March. Before then, the Aussie is desperate to do some delivering of his own.


His next chance comes at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday as 18th-placed Rotherham look for their first away win of the campaign.


“I'm doing the right things," he says. "I'm getting into positions to score. I go into every game thinking I will score. I'll just keep trying until I do.”


For the man with marriage on his mind, 'Blackburn 0 Rotherham 1 (Williams)' has a nice ring to it.

A version of this article appeared in last Friday's Advertiser


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