Free kicks with Fury

Name: Ryan Williams
Role: Midfielder
Age: 26
Previous clubs: Chester City, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno (loan), Rhyl, Morecambe, Brentford, Inverness Caledonian Thistle 
Current club: Ottawa Fury

Remember Juninho Pernambucano for Lyon during the 2000s? He was well known for his superb free-kicks which more often than not found the top corner. Andrea Pirlo modelled his own free-kick’s on Juninho’s, as did Ryan Williams, and it’s clear to see it paid off.

Juninho Pernambucano generates topspin on the ball and as soon as I saw his technique, it was something I wanted to bring into my game.”

Ryan Williams has now taken his talent to Canada where he plays for Ottawa Fury. Here his free kicks have drawn a lot of attention with others keen to learn from his technique. 

It came about quite randomly. I had just finished my contract with Inverness CT in the SPL and was working through a couple of options, when an Ottawa Fury player, Onua Obasi, recommended me to the manager Paul Dalglish. He did his research on me, rang me on the Monday and by the next Monday I was in Canada training with the team preparing for Saturday's match.

Of course it’s a big difference playing in a country known more for its winter sports than football, and there’s been a lot of adjusting for Ryan Williams to do. Not just in his way of life but also on the football pitch with other variables coming into play that he wouldn’t necessarily have encountered before.

My first game was away in Jacksonville last July in the middle of a Florida heatwave, I think it was 38c and humid with it so it became apparent pretty quickly that I couldn't run round in the same manner as I would in England because you would have nothing left in the tank after 10 minutes. I had to get smarter at my decision making in terms of when to press and when to conserve energy because of this, also when to make a run beyond the forwards or when to just back up the play and pick up the second ball.

Williams striking a free kick for Ottawa Fury

Williams striking a free kick for Ottawa Fury

Flying to games was also a new experience for me, I think in England the most I had done was a 4 or 5 hour coach journey, where as out here we could be catching 2 flights to a game. I've really enjoyed it though and it's been an incredible experience so far.”

Williams’s career started at Chester City but a bad injury saw his time come to an end without having much of a chance. He was given that at Colwyn Bay with whom he helped win promotion in 2010 from the Northern Premier League Division One North, before a spell in Wales with Llandudno and then Rhyl. It was with Rhyl where he started to come to prominence and was named in the team of the year for the division after a season full of goals for the midfielder.

A return to England was on the cards, as Jim Bentley brought him to Morecambe in League Two. He made an instant impact scoring on his debut and saw his short-term contract extended to the end of the 2013-14 season. His free kick which I alluded to against Wolverhampton Wanderers brought him to the attention of the nation with the game being live on television. Williams looks back on his spell at the Globe Arena very fondly.

“Morecambe was a massive part of my career and I'll forever be grateful to the manager Jim Bentley for having the faith and belief in me that he did. I had some amazing times at Morecambe the players and fans were absolutely brilliant with me. I signed at 21 from non-league as a bit of an unknown quantity, and they showed real faith in me giving me the number 10 shirt.”

“One of the highlights of my career so far was scoring that freekick to beat Wolves 1-0 in the cup and the fans going absolutely mental singing my name. The stadium was electric that night and it's got us a home tie against Newcastle in the next round. That's something I'll never forget and something I'll always remember. It's a fantastic family club and one that will always hold a special place in my heart.”

When asked about his career highlight, Williams looked back upon his time at Morecambe and picked out two key moments. The free kick obviously being the standout moment.

“Scoring on my league debut for Morecambe away at Plymouth was a great experience, making my league debut was something I had been working towards for a couple of years in non-league, and then to score really just topped the day off for me.

But the career highlight for me was the night against Wolves. Scoring so late in the game, getting man of the match and knowing my friends were watching it on TV topped it off for me. Rio Ferdinand and Charlie Adam tweeted about my goal after the game which my friends also seen which they got quite excited about.”

Ryan signed a deal with Championship side Brentford in 2015; a great move for the midfielder and a chance to test himself in one of the best leagues in Europe. He was only given one start though in the League Cup and was released after 8 months.

Williams in League Cup action for Brentford

Williams in League Cup action for Brentford

“Brentford was probably the right club at the wrong time to be honest. The 6 months I was there we had 3 managers, the club was very much in a transition phase and I think myself and a couple of other players got lost in that. When I was there I think we had about 12 players who could play midfield and I never really got an opportunity. It is what it is though and I don't regret going there, I learned a lot about myself during that time and the guys there were first class, really top professionals and great people.”

Playing on television in front of millions in the UK is quite a difference to then playing in Canada which would be an unknown quantity to football fans here. The league structure in USA isn’t as straight forward as you would like so Ryan told me a bit more about the club and their position.

“Ottawa Fury were founded a couple of seasons ago and for the first 3 seasons played in the NASL, the league I played in with the team last season. This year we have moved to the USL along with the Tampa Bay Rowdies who were also in NASL last season, that's who Joe Cole is playing for, as there has been a restructuring of the US soccer pyramid.

 It's going to be interesting to see the difference in style of football this year as last year in the NASL it was quite tactical with some experienced players and most teams would have at least a couple of current internationals in their starting 11. I think in the USL this year it may be more similar to the lower leagues in England in that I think it's going to be a higher tempo but tactically more open.”

In England you know in advance the type of game to expect, clubs have a certain style of play and weather conditions traditionally are going to be predictable in this country, but that’s something which isn’t as foreseeable in Canada.

The biggest difference for me is that in England you have a good idea of what your coming up against week to week, over here the teams styles change drastically each Saturday. One week you can be playing in similar weather conditions to England so the game is full throttle, the next week you can be playing in unbelievable heat and the game is very tactical.”

Williams in action for the Shrimpers

Williams in action for the Shrimpers

 The 26-year-old has represented his country in Futsal which is something he has played since 16, and he feels it has developed his skills a great deal.

“I started playing when I was 16 for Tranmere Victoria who were a prominent team in the national league. I started playing because I felt it would help encourage and develop my technical skills which at the time were being restricted at the team I was playing 11aside for. Also because there's only 4 outfield players, I was getting lots of ball contact time. You have to make decisions a lot faster so even after a couple of weeks playing Futsal I started to feel like I had lots more time during 11 aside games.”

As with all our footballers that we have covered on Playing Away From Home, they have found a move abroad has breathed a new lease of life into their career, and they never look back over their bold decision to go and play somewhere they would have never usually considered.

“I’ve had the opportunity to play with and against a lot of players whose style is very different to the English way and that’s only been great for my development. Over here I've played with South American guys who see the game in a completely different way, then with the North American guys who are unbelievable athletes and then with players like Julian De Guzman who had an amazing career in the Bundesliga and la Liga. To compete and take bits from all these guys has been an invaluable experience and something that I may not have had the opportunity to do had I stayed in England.”

Williams deserves credit for taking the step abroad to broader his horizons and develop his game, and whilst the football in USA and Canada doesn’t receive wide coverage over here, we hope that with interviews like this it will bring more attention to footballers like Williams. They still hope of a return home to a club in the UK as after all the game is in a different echelon here for numerous reasons, but it’s important to enjoy what they have now as well.

“I think I will go back to play in the UK at some point definitely, but when that will be I'm not sure. Right now I'm enjoying playing over here, working on my game every day in the amazing facilities the club has, it's an opportunity I'm delighted to have and right now I'm very much just focused on the day to day of being the best I can.”