Deadline day may have been a rush for Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams but the chance to join Sunderland on loan in a bid to kick-start his career was one he couldn’t miss.
Williams, fully fit and raring to go, is hoping to be involved for Sunderland against Sheffield United at the Stadium of Light tomorrow (KO 3pm).
Richard Mennear spoke with Williams, 23, about his move, Simon Grayson, his World Cup ambitions with Wales and his best position.
Q How did the season-long loan move come about?
A I was training with the Wales squad Thursday morning and knew I had to get sorted by the end of the day. When I found out Sunderland were interested I was really excited, I spoke with the Wales manager and he was excited for me, allowed me to leave training early and trek up north. Palace gave me the heads up a few weeks before deadline day that there was interest from a few clubs. On the last day I have come to the best one suited to me and the best opportunity for me, it has worked out as a blessing to end up here. I couldn’t have asked for much better in this league, it is a team that shouldn’t really be here. A lot of people know that and we have to deal with the expectation levels.
Q Was dropping down a division a concern or were you just keen to play regular football?
A The top 10 teams in the Premier League is a different ball game but there isn’t much between the bottom 10 and the top 10 in the Championship. It is a division below but this is a great opportunity to come here and play and be part of a great squad.
Q Was it frustrating not getting a break at Palace?
A When I saw the new manager coming in, the style of play he wanted and it was the same formation as Wales play I was suited to it but I didn’t get many opportunities. There weren’t that many friendly games, so the starting XI were getting a lot of minutes and the fringe players were limited. If I’d had a few more games who knows I could of perhaps secured a position but this is a massive opportunity for me – arguably a greater one – and a different experience. I have been out on loan a few times. Once I have been fit I have been able to show people what I can do. Ideally you’d like to be part of a team and not always on loan but Palace have allowed me to come on loan, it could be worse, I could be playing Under-23 football at Palace.
Q How much of a factor in your move to Wearside was Simon Grayson?
A Preston have always been a strong team to play against and have done well in recent years, I had heard a lot of good things about the manager and his backroom staff. The Wales staff know Snods [assistant Glynn Snodin] as well saying he was a funny guy, he was really welcoming and it is nice to have people like that around the club, it’s massive having someone like that backing you. I spoke with Adam Matthews too and I know Murph [Daryl Murphy] he had a few loans spells at Ipswich.
Q Matthews has struggled to make an impact at Sunderland yet he gave a glowing reference?
A Yes, he had a lot of good things to say about the club. He was away at Bristol last year but I spoke with him and he told me it was a great club to come to, I’m sure he will get his opportunity and it would be nice to play alongside him. We linked up well in the Wales Under-21 days and the first team too, we know each other well and hopefully we can get out on the pitch together.
Q What is your best position – is it as a No 10?
A I think I am best in central areas. Anywhere centrally you get the best out of me, I have played wide and come inside in my career but central is my best position.
Q Wales are riding on a high, will this loan move help your World Cup ambitions?
A Most importantly, I need to focus on my club career and putting in good performances for Sunderland is my main aim. Doing well here will only help with the selection when it comes to international duties. My main focus is to do well here, stay fit and play lots of games. That would come as a bonus. Hopefully I take the performances I’ve put in a Wales shirt and bring them here, stay fit and do well. That is my main aim, getting picked for Wales would be a bonus.
Q How are your fitness levels? Are you fit to start against Sheffield United?
A I feel fine, I’ve had pretty much a whole pre-season under my belt and played a few reserve games. I feel fit to go.