Williams: “Every minute I've played I've enjoyed”
Summer acquisition Jonny Williams has admitted that, despite niggling injury issues and the fact that the team are second bottom of the Championship, he’s enjoying his start to life on Wearside.
The Welsh midfielder was signed on deadline day on loan from Crystal Palace, but since arriving he’s found himself in and out of the side - largely due to a variety of small injury problems that have nagged him over the last month or so.
Frustrating, really, as Sunderland’s midfield has often looked unbalanced, in part due to the fact that Williams struggles to stay fit - when he’s available, he’s certainly one of the first names on the team sheet.
It’s not something that the Wales international is worried about however, as he claims he’s enjoying the ‘free’ role afforded to him by Simon Grayson.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Williams noted:
I'm really enjoying it and when I've been playing I've felt back to my old self and not worrying about anything.
Playing with a freedom under a manager that rates me and I'm expressing myself and getting on the ball and I'm getting back to believing in my own ability. Every minute I've played I've enjoyed. He [Grayson] hasn't put too much restrictions on me playing wise.
Williams’ emergence from the bench in our last home outing against Queens Park Rangers boosted Sunderland considerably, with his influence on proceedings the catalyst for a more energetic performance that brought about a Sunderland leveller late in the game from Aiden McGeady.
The central attacking midfielder attributes his new found confidence to Simon Grayson, who he believes is giving him the freedom that he desires in order to become a key player in his faltering side:
He's played me in central areas which is the main thing for me.
He's played me in central midfield, played me in the hole, he's getting me in central areas with a freedom to go and receive the ball or get the ball on the half-turn in between the lines and get the team playing higher up the pitch with transition from defence to attack.
He wants me to get on the ball as much as possible and make things happen and make things tick.
A shame, then, that Williams hasn’t been able to have a solid run in the side yet - something that he’s hoping to put together in the coming weeks.
I picked up a little hamstring [injury]. Just overstretched in literally the last minute against QPR. I didn't think it was going to be bad enough to put me out any of the games but Saturday [to Brentford] came round too soon and it was probably the best decision in the end.
I'm looking forward to hopefully being involved in the next three matches before the international break.
When asked if he’ll play tomorrow in what is a huge game for Grayson’s side, Williams admitted:
Yeah, I'm hoping to if the manager picks me, I'll find out.
Good news indeed.
Bain Guarded on January budget
Further quotes revealed today following Martin Bain’s meeting with the press earlier this week give a hint towards what is to come for Sunderland in the January transfer window.
Having spent less than two million pounds in order to overhaul our squad in the summer, even the most hopeful of Sunderland fans would likely admit that there’s little to no chance of the manager receiving significant funds to strengthen their side in the January transfer window.
And Bain’s words will have done little to allay those fears, instead opting not to be draw on the ins and outs of what we’ll be able to invest when the transfer window re-opens in just over two month’s time.
From a budgetary point of view, I’m not going to make promises and create expectation for the fans and risk false dawns, and I hope they respect that.
Guarded, but perhaps a stance that is needed after the Sunderland CEO failed to deliver on ‘promises’ he made in the summer, when he acknowledged that we’d see some of the Jordan Pickford money re-invested in the side - only for it to emerge that the funds went towards paying old debts, legacy payments and the monies owed on the back of the Ricky Alvarez fiasco. In making unrealistic promises he can’t keep, Bain would only create even more issues for himself down the line.
And that itself is something that Bain went on to acknowledge, explaining:
At times there are messages that people don’t want to hear, but I hope that fans respect the fact that I am communicating with them and telling them the way it is.
Explanation offered for ‘behind closed doors’ U23s game
News that may have passed the majority of the fanbase by earlier in the week came in the form of a victory for our U23s side in the Durham County Challenge Cup, with Elliot Dickman’s side running out 5-0 winners against Wearside League part-timers Hartlepool FC.
Though young Swedish attacker Benji Kimpioka was the man who captured the most intrigue following his second-half hattrick, it was perhaps more notable that the game was not made available for public consumption, instead taking place behind closed doors at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare ground.
The decision - apparently made late following some logistical issues - angered some fans who turned up in order to support the team, with one source claiming that one elderly season ticket holder was so angry at not being allowed access to the ground that he threw away his season card, claiming he’d never return after his 70+ years of support.
Only select members of the press and some family members were allowed entry to the cup tie, and on the back of questions from bewildered supporters as to why the game was played behind closed doors, Sunderland AFC offered up an explanation to the Hartlepool Mail.
Sunderland AFC and Hartlepool FC entered into discussions to find a suitable date and kick-off time for the fixture which suited both clubs. Due to Hartlepool’s part-time status, it was decided that the fixture would have to take place after the hours of daylight and, therefore, at a floodlit venue. This decision was reached only a few days before the fixture.
SAFC investigated the possibility of opening the game to the public but due to an event at the Hetton Centre, it was decided that this would not be publicly responsible. Hartlepool also accepted that the fixture was unlikely to be profitable, so they would therefore not be missing out on any revenue from gate receipts. The game has always been listed as behind-closed-doors on safc.com.
Secretary of Hartlepool FC, Chris Murray, spoke of his disappointment that the game had to be played behind closed doors, but admitted that Sunderland had been helpful in arranging a suitable venue:
It was a bit of a last minute decision for the game to be held at the Hetton Centre, because it was originally going to be at Sunderland’s training ground. Logistically, it was going to be too difficult to get everything arranged in time for it to be open to the public.
It was a bit disappointing that it was behind closed doors, but Sunderland were very accommodating and did offer to stage the game at our ground. Unfortunately, as our ground doesn’t have floodlights, it wasn’t possible.
Sunderland allowed us to have a guest list to ensure family members could watch, which we were very grateful for. It was a bit of a shame, but our players still enjoyed the challenge of coming up against professional footballers and it was a good experience for them.
For those hungry to see some Sunderland U23s action you will be pleased to learn that they take on Manchester United this coming Sunday (12pm) at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground, with admission to the game free for all season card holders.