Williams: Should He Stay Or Go?
Ben Williams has a big decision to make in the summer. Does he stick with Crewe Alexandra, a club that have been loyal to him and where he is comfortably the number one goalkeeper, or does he move on to pastures new, perhaps not for more money but for a fresh challenge and resurgence in his wavering career?
If you were to say you`re a fan of Ben Williams you would be in minority, a very small minority it seems at this moment in time. Since the departure of Michael Higdon in the summer and the recent absence of Ben Rix through injury, Williams seems to have been promoted to chief scapegoat of the Crewe team.
No matter what he does right the errors he makes, however minimal they may be, are what he forever seems to be tarnished with. I suppose this is the life of the goalkeeper and what they must put up with, but Williams puts up with more than most.
No one can argue that Ben is one of the most passionate players in the team, he gives 100% and yes he does make the odd error, but who doesn`t? If the team are playing badly it`s easy to blame the goalkeeper if the goals are been regularly leaked, and Ben has bore a lot of the recent brunt of Alex fans dissatisfaction, even when we haven`t been losing.
He doesn`t take criticism lightly though and will stick up for himself and his team mates. You can`t forget his long walk across the pitch last season at Port Vale where we had been beaten 3-0 and thoroughly humiliated with the Crewe fans hammering the players off the field. Williams was unhappy with the fans reaction and confronted them not only to apologise to them but to question their morals in supporting their team. Ben is the sort of passionate player that we need ten more of on the pitch every week and to lose him in my opinion would be a major step backwards, if we can go much further.
This summer William`s contract will run out and although the club have offered him a new contract he has yet to sign, apparently waiting so he can assess him options. We are led to believe the contract is very generous and outlines the faith the Crewe management and coaching staff have in the former Manchester United trainee, unlike that of the fans.
Most of the Alex faithful don`t doubt Ben`s ability as a goalkeeper, his shot stopping ability is probably the best of an Alex goalkeeper in recent memory, the problem is he has a tendency to make erratic judgments when the ball is in the air.
The last Alex keeper of much note before Williams was Clayton Ince and his catching from crosses is unparalleled in any other goalkeeper I have ever seen. So the fact we turned down the chance to resign Ince, from which he has subsequently gone on to break the clean sheet record at his newest club Walsall, the same record he holds at Crewe, angered the Alex fans somewhat.
Ince wasn`t much of a shot stopper, but he could command his defence and anything in the air would be his. He and Williams are two different keepers entirely but the problem was when Ince left it exposed the heading ability of our centre halves, which turned out to be very poor, and the fact that Ince`s ability had been covering this for a long while. Ince`s departure along with many other factors helped induce Crewe`s recent decline and fall from grace.
Since Clayton left the Crewe fans have been very expecting of Williams to fill his boots by being as commanding and organising as Ince, sadly as is not his forte, they have been disappointed. As the corner swung over at Walsall last week in the last minute and we clutched onto a one goal lead, Ben had two choices to make, stay on his line or come and challenge for the ball which was in his territory. The Ben Williams that first came to Crewe Alexandra would have stayed on his line, as believed by some to be his instructions, but with his gradually growing confidence he has recently been seen to come for a lot more aerial balls, some which maybe he shouldn`t of.
At Walsall perhaps his confidence was misplaced, and they bundled home a heartbreaking equaliser deep into injury time, a catch that his opposite number on that day Clayton Ince would have surely plucked out of the sky and seen his side collect a vital three points. But then who was the man who had already denied Tommy Mooney a hat-trick with three sensational saves at full stretch before his team mates had even started playing? Williams had stopped us from a potential thrashing before we had put three passes together.
Would Ince, Turnbull or Tomlinson have pulled off those saves, or many that have saved us from defeats or humiliation this season, such as the string of world class saves at Nottingham Forest earlier in the season, despite us being basically out of the game. I very much doubt it.
Not many can blame Williams for assessing his options and although he has not shown immediate loyalty to his club, we know from past experience this is the nature of the modern footballer.
Ben is probably waiting to see which league we are in next season, and may even have a new club lined up, as he clearly feels he is of the ability to sustain a regular place in a League One team, if not the Championship.
When Ben first arrived on loan he looked the real deal and then manager Dario Gradi was even touting him for future international honours. Williams`s progression in the game may not be as grand as he first thought, and perhaps he could do better, with better coaching and nurturing, perhaps that`s why he may fancy a change, at a club which may allow him to flourish.
The Crewe fans may not immediately be to sad to see him go, but look at the Kenny Lunt scenario, supporters were happy to see the back of him, yet who did we go crawling back to with a cry for help to save our season after his move to Sheffield Wednesday went sour? The words you don`t know what you`ve got until its gone are very fitting here.
Williams may not be a brilliant all round goalkeeper but then not many are, it`s all about striking the right balance. In my opinion losing Ben on a free transfer would be a major loss, I don`t think he would have much trouble securing a regular berth in at least another League One team and then what?
We aren`t likely to pay a big fee for a goalkeeper and promoting from within isn`t to inspiring with the options of Stuart Tomlinson who has never done anything to suggest he has the ability to be a League One goalkeeper and a young Owain Fon Williams who although has been getting the plaudits for his Welsh Under 21 performances has no football league experience to his name.
I might be wrong, Williams might leave and we might unearth a gem from nowhere, perhaps Petr Cech`s younger brother with potential to be better than his older sibling. Until any suggestion or hint of this surfaces though I think we should be concerned that Williams looks happy to be set to leave Gresty Road. He may not have fulfilled his potential so far in his time at Crewe, but then he has never had a settled defence or specialised coach, if only part time, to help develop his game.
I for one would be very sorry to see Ben leave, but for his own development and for the stick his has put up with from the Crewe fans who could blame him. Let`s hope if he does depart we aren`t looking back in a couple of years with regret at the second rate replacement we have for him. I`d rather he chooses to stay though if possible.