Ex-Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town player reflects on 'tough' Sunderland stint after arriving at World Cup

There won’t be many players at the World Cup in Qatar plying their trade in League Two – but ex-Sunderland loanee Jonny Williams is one example.

The attacking midfielder is once again rubbing shoulders with global superstars Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey for Wales as the country embarks on its first World Cup since 1958.

Williams, however, hasn’t had it easy. The talented and tricky footballer has suffered his fair share of injuries over the years and visibly struggled during a loan move at Sunderland during the ill-fated 2017-18 season, with relegation captured by Netflix’s cameras for the world to see.

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Williams is now at Swindon Town in League Two after leaving Cardiff City at the end of last season and is enjoying a career renaissance, which led to him making Rob Page’s Wales squad for the World Cup in Qatar.

Jonny Williams of Wales looks on during the Wales match day training session in Doha, Qatar.

“Yeah potentially I did have doubts," he said of his struggles before signing for Swindon Town in the summer via Wales Online. “My head was a bit all over the place, I was a free agent.

“I had signed for Cardiff and was there for a while. I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked to.

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“Mainly because the team went on about an eight-game winning streak which was great. They just missed out on the play-offs at the end and me personally I didn’t really get the chance to show what I can do.

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“I felt low at the time and Sunderland was tough. I didn’t get kept on by Cardiff and was out of contract."

The 29-year-old does admit to having some reservations about dropping down the leagues, though, having operated between the Premier League, Championship and League One for the majority of his career with Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, Sunderland and Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town, MK Dons and Nottingham Forest.

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“I was thinking whether I wanted to be abroad or stay in England. Ben Garner my coach at Palace I had over the years called me," he added.

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“He was the manager at Swindon and liked to play passing football. He said: 'I think you are probably not going to drop to this level but I would love to have you here to get your career back on track and get you playing regularly'.

“I thought about it for two or three weeks because I wasn’t sure I wanted to drop that low. I felt I could still play higher up but I have enjoyed it. And when you look back on your career you just want to make sure you have enjoyed it as much as you can. Before that, I don’t think I could say I had done that.

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“I am trying to play catch up a little bit and trying to stay fit as much as I can. To be here now at World Cup is a bit surreal."

Williams was an unused substitute as Wales staged a second-half comeback to draw against the USA during their World Cup opener.