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Forgotten Black Cats: Paul Williams

Paul Williams was signed in 1995 on loan from Crystal Palace by Mick Buxton, having struggled to force his way into the Eagles’ side after their promotion to the Premier League.


When Williams arrived we were languishing in 18th place in the first division and struggling for goals. Big summer signing Phil Gray had managed to grab a respectable amount but with too many games ending with a zero in our scoring column, Williams was brought in as the man to take the burden from the Northern Irishman.

He wasn’t given a slow introduction to the team either, as he started the first game he was available for. We would go on to lose despite his introduction though, as a 1-2 home defeat to fellow strugglers Notts County would plunge Sunderland into the relegation zone - a late Gary Lund goal securing victory for the side that would eventually finish bottom of the league that season.

Despite the poor performance and evidence of something missing up top for Buxton’s side in that game, he named a similar side for the visit of Port Vale, captain Kevin Ball the only change from the previous game, as he replaced the suspended Gary Bennett. Bennett had been sent off in the 1-4 FA Cup defeat to a Jurgen Klinnsman inspired Tottenham Hostpur - a game where Williams was ineligible to play. The loanee again though was virtually anonymous, as the Lads managed to snatch a bore draw with the captain himself, Kevin Ball, opening the scoring before a strike from Vale legend Tony Naylor gave them a well deserved draw in front of 13,377 spectators at Roker Park.

Bryan Robson of Manchester United and Paul Williams of Sheffield Wednesday

The loan of the 30-year-old was meant to spark the Wearside forward line into life, yet it remained as toothless as it had done all season. With the team languishing deep in the relegation mix, it was evident that the struggles came at the top of the field as they sat bottom of the goals scored column - a stat that didn’t change for the rest of the season, with only 22 goals scored at Roker, and 19 scored away from Wearside.

With this in mind, Williams was given one final chance to flourish away to his former side Charlton at the Valley. A 1-0 defeat thanks to a David Whyte goal would put an end to his short and disappointing stay on Wearside, the team dropping to 22nd with three months of the season to go and Williams’ loan not extended beyond that singular month.

Williams didn't have too bad a career, in truth. Signed by Charlton Athletic as a youngster from non-league football, he went on to have two great seasons at the Valley, where 23 goals over two seasons prompted Ron Atkinson to spend £1m to bring him to Sheffield Wednesday to play alongside the Owls’ star man David Hirst. His move to Hillsborough gave him the only honour of his career, as they defeated Manchester United at Wembley in the League Cup Final of 1991. One season later, his impressive scoring rate prompted a move back to his home of London as a swap deal was agreed with Crystal Palace - Mark Bright moving in the opposite direction.

Paul Williams of Sheffield Wednesday and Dennis Irwin and Les Sealey of Manchester United

Following his spell at Sunderland he had another disappointing loan at Birmingham City, before eventually returning to Charlton in 1996.

His move back to the Valley failed to ignite his stuttering career though, and he was allowed to move on a free transfer to Southend United after only one season and 9 appearances. It was at Southend where he had something of an upturn in fortunes, managing to hit a respectable 7 goals for them between 1996 and early 1998, his first goals since his Crystal Palace days.

His age and increasing injury struggles meant he was again allowed to leave on a free transfer, where he then moved back to his roots of non-league football, signing up at Canvey Island. From there Paul went on to complete two very successful years playing and coaching. Whilst at Canvey, he helped them gain consecutive promotions. He eventually ended his playing career in 2002, hanging up his boots due to injury at Essex club Bowers FC.

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