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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

World Cup Qualifiers: Rhys Williams Relishing Return to Socceroos Fold after Years of Injury Frustration

(The Daily Telegraph) - MAYBE it will be third time lucky for Rhys Williams, but there’s absolutely no way he’s even contemplating such a change of fortune

With a World Cup 15 months away his return to the Socceroos is well-timed, but that’s a long enough period for Williams not to be counting any chickens.
For now it’s enough that Williams is in the national squad assembling in Tehran for a pair of World Cup qualifiers in which Williams hopes to earn his 15th cap. By now he should have many more, and been to two World Cups, as well as amassing far more games in the EPL than he managed with Middlesbrough. But that’s the ill-fortune that has left him apparently cursed — and a succession of Socceroos coaches cursing.
“To be honest the main feeling at the moment is relief,” said Williams.
“I can’t get back the time I lost through injury, and I’d like to think that it was because of those injuries that I missed out on a lot of opportunities with the national team.
“But I also believe, even now, that everything happens for a reason, even if at times it’s hard to know what the reason is. I’m just really, really looking forward to getting into camp, putting my best foot forward and trying to give the manager a selection headache.”
Ange Postecoglou obviously rates Williams because he was in the first squad the Socceroos coach picked when he succeeded Holger Osieck. But the first of two successive Achilles injuries intervened soon after, which ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup; another blow, after the pelvic complaint that meant he didn’t make the previous World Cup.
“When that second Achilles injury happened, I knew it was going to be really tough to get back,” Williams said.
“Maybe at times, certainly early on, I thought there’d be no way back internationally, and maybe that was that. But I’ve also been patient, and I think I’m playing OK for Perth now.
“I need to kick on, I know that. I didn’t think I’d get a chance so quickly back in the national team after such a topsy-turvy season with my club. But me and my family are very proud and quite emotional about the fact I have been picked, so now it’s up to me to make up for lost time.”
Williams has long had the ability to be a fulcrum of the national side, whether in defence or midfield. When Pim Verbeek made the call that he wasn’t fit enough in 2010 it was with real frustration that injury had prevented him going.
If Postecoglou has raised eyebrows by including him after just a handful of games for Perth, you can understand why he’s so keen. A fully-fit Williams is precisely the sort of ball-playing defender the Socceroos’ style needs.
He also offers more experience, in some ways, than younger players who have more actual caps.
“I think the boss has brought me in as a centreback which is where I’ve played the majority of games this season for Perth,” Williams said.
“Hopefully what I can offer on the ball is something that gives me a chance of getting into the starting XI.
“If I can help some of the younger boys in any way, then that will be a bonus. There’s a couple of faces from when I came into Ange’s first squad, but mostly they’re all new and it’s an exciting squad to be part of.
“But I can’t look any further than this squad and these two games. If I stay fit and perform well for my club, then who knows what will happen. But nothing will happen if I don’t prove myself worthy of a place to start with.”