EUROPEAN football was far from Mike Williamson’s mind as he plied his trade in the lower leagues, writes Miles Starforth.
Or during a frustrating six-month spell at Portsmouth when he didn’t kick a ball in anger.
Yet the defender is now part of a Newcastle United team still in the race for the Champions League places with just six Premier League games left to play this season, being level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea ahead of this afternoon’s home game against Bolton Wanderers.
Williamson spent the bulk of his early career at lowly Wycombe Wanderers, touring football’s less fashionable outposts.
Back then, Williamson was confident his talent could take him up the divisions to the top flight, but appreciates his chance at United.
“You always have the ambition to go to the top and test yourself,” Williamson said.
“You just need a chance to prove yourself and that’s what I’m doing at the minute. I’m just enjoying playing in a team which is doing so well.
“(European football) would be an amazing thing. We’ll keep riding the wave and keep it going as long as possible.”
Williamson started the season on the bench and went on to spend several months in the treatment room after suffering an ankle injury in a Carling Cup tie against Scunthorpe United in August.
However, since Steven Taylor was ruled out for the season in October, the 28-year-old has taken centre stage, as has James Perch in recent games.
Perch and Williamson were outstanding in central defence in Newcastle’s 2-0 Good Friday win over Swansea City.
“Perchy’s been fantastic – we both know what each other are about,” said Williamson.
“It’s working well. We need to keep working hard and doing the basics right. We know with Papiss, Demba and Hatem (Ben Arfa), we’ll create many chances.”
Reflecting on the Swansea game, Williamson added: “We knew we’d be defending for a lot of the game. We knew what Swansea were all about.
“They’re a fantastic team and I thought we did well and limited their chances. If we get a clean sheet, we’ve got a chance of getting three points.”