BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Jonny Williams has revealed that one of his old school pals fancied him to join Charlton Athletic – well before it became a reality.
The Addicks signed the Welsh international on a permanent deal on Friday.
It spells the end of Williams’ lengthy Crystal Palace career. He joined the SE25 outfit in 2002 and was once linked with some of England’s top clubs.
But a succession of injuries have unquestionably stunted his development and progression.
Williams, 25, is due to become a free agent at the end of June but his switch across South London is aimed at increased game time.
Asked if he would be keen on a longer stay with Charlton, he replied: “I’m open to whatever, really. If I really enjoy my time here, do well for the club and get enough games then I don’t see why not. I’ll need to look at the end of the season, see where I’m at and take it from there.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out, for sure.
“One of my good mates from school is a massive Charlton fan. He’s been on about me signing for them for a while now.
“He predicted it two weeks ago – because he knew I might be up for transfer. I put my head on a Charlton shirt and said ‘mate, it’s come true’. I had to get his little kid a Williams shirt – he’ll be buzzing with that.”
Williams has been capped 17 times by Wales but Palace’s promotion to the Premier League – and his time in the treatment room – ensured he needed loans at Ipswich Town, Nottingham Forest, Milton Keynes and Sunderland to get competitive minutes.
“It [injuries] has been my downfall in recent years,” he said. “People can see that. It’s been a struggle. It’s not been a reoccurrence. I’ve had two shoulder ops in the last two seasons, you couldn’t really call it.
“I’ll do my best to stay fit now – eat, sleep and repeat. I’ll do the right things. It’s a really important time in my career.”
Williams had plenty of well-wishers as he ended his time at Palace. Former team-mate Peter Ramage tweeted: “Genuinely wish this absolute superstar Joniesta all the best at Charlton.
“Biggest compliment I could give, is if my daughter ever walked in the front with him on her arm I’d kiss him before my daughter … one of the most gifted players I’ve ever come across!!”
But now Williams needs to break that connection.
“I needed it [to go],” he said. “I’ve only really had positive messages from everyone.
“It got a point before now that I made my mind up that I wasn’t going to play and needed to move on for the good of my own career.
“It was a hard decision. It’s been an emotional couple of days with all the messages and memories from fans and friends I’ve made over the last 17 years.
“I got back late Thursday morning after travelling with the lads [Palace first-team squad] to Wolves. It’s been a crazy few days. Now I can focus.
“Everyone is delighted that I’ve got a fresh start. The boys here have taken to me really well. I’m looking to play as many games as I can in a Charlton shirt until the end of the season and see what happens.”
Williams’ first touch on his debut in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Black Cats saw him put the ball into touch – anticipating an overlap from Chris Solly.
But he showed flashes of what he is capable of with a couple of trademark dribbles.
“It would be wrong if you didn’t get a few nerves before your debut. It gets less as you get older and play more games. I don’t think it is bad if you get a little bit nervous – it shows you want to do well and you care.
“I feel relaxed and I’m looking forward to making an impact.
“I think the chances will come – I managed to create a couple today. But getting the confidence in front of goal, taking it myself at times and not always trying to assist – to take on responsibility and shots myself – I think that will come with the manager [Lee Bowyer].
“He’s looking forward to improving that side of my game. It’s all about confidence and being positive. My end product will be improved this year, for sure.
“I like to carry the ball forward. I’ll get better at riding challenges and getting out of the way of silly tackles – looking after myself in this division, with the help of officials. That’s my game. I’ll make things happen. I need a run to see the best out of me.
“I’ve missed playing in that kind of atmosphere. We maybe deserved a win based on that second-half performance but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better reception off the fans.Even after my dodgy first touch! I feel at home already.
“It was nice to get the first game out of the way – a good result against one of the best opponents in the league. If we carry on creating chances like that, we’ll win more games than we don’t.”
Bowyer spoke on Saturday night about Charlton still firmly having their sights on the top two.
They are five points behind second-placed Luton Town, who have played a match less. Sunderland have a four point lead in third and have played two fewer.
Williams said: “We’ve got to look at every game as a potential win. “We’re one of the best teams in the league. We have to go home and away wanting to win games. If we can play like we did in the second half – I watched the first half against Walsall – it’s been positive what I’ve seen. We seem strong all over the pitch at the moment.”
Williams is looking forward to working with Bowyer and admits the boss – who celebrated his 42nd birthday last Thursday – proved persuasive in tempting him to the SE7 outfit.
“He was massive. I met up with him before I came. We had a chat and everything he said I was on board with.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to be playing in a team that is pushing for promotion. I managed to do that in the Championship with Palace – it’s a great feeling. If we can get the fans behind us, like they were today, then I’m really excited playing for Charlton.”
IMAGE BY PAUL EDWARDS