Central midfielder Jonny Williams completed ninety minutes for Sunderland’s U23s side in their 1-0 away win at West Ham United yesterday evening, pushing him into contention for a starting berth in the team that will face Bristol City on Saturday afternoon.
The Wales international has been missing from first-team action since dislocating his shoulder in November, and though he’s been back in training for a number of weeks he has been eased back into the picture by playing in a couple of games for Sunderland’s second string.
Williams was replaced by youngster Benji Kimpioka in injury time of the second half, and having came through the game relatively unscathed it’s likely that he’ll be in the squad to play on Saturday - possibly even starting.
Williams came close to scoring on a number of occasions during yesterday evening’s Premier League 2 clash and was accompanied in the team by goalkeeper Jason Steele and Jack Rodwell, the latter of which completed the full game playing as part of a back three in central defence.
The trio joined a gaggle of U23 players and U18 players in making up the side that defeated the Hammers, with the only goal of the game coming from diminutive striker Lee Connelly - a speculative effort from range which separated the two teams.
Despite the fact that Ethan Robson and Lee Cattermole have been the pairing of choice in the centre of the park for Chris Coleman for the senior side in recent weeks, a bad team performance last time out against Ipswich Town may well force the Sunderland manager into shaking up his side, with Williams likely to be one of the first players to come into the manager’s thoughts.
The 24-year old Crystal Palace loanee was an integral part of Coleman’s Wales squad that managed to reach the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2016, but has never been available to his former national team manager since the ex-Fulham gaffer was appointed at Sunderland boss in mid-November.
This coming Saturday, however, could be the first time that Williams finds himself selected by the Sunderland manager.
Coleman had warned that Williams may not be ready for the physicality of ‘proper’ football, but having proved his fitness in playing for Elliott Dickman’s side he’ll be hoping to be back involved with the seniors come this weekend.
Coleman’s biggest dilemma at present with regards to team selection is regarding just who he leaves out of his 18-man squad - only five of the seven players Sunderland currently have on loan are eligible to be involved, meaning that some useful players may well be forced to miss out, particularly if Williams is an integral part of the manager’s plans as we head towards the tail end of the season.