Monday, 29 November 2010
205 Paul Williams
Position : Forward (also played at centre half)
Played : 1993-94 (initially on loan from Stockport) to 1995-96
Appearances : 37
Goals : 7
Now we come to one of our most controversial signings and the most disastrous consequence of the Bergara-Sutton relationship. Paul was initially signed on loan from Stockport in November 1993.
He was the son of Betty Williams the Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland who was widely perceived to have retired on the proceeds. He was with Leeds as a youth but didn't make the grade and played for Distillery in Northern Ireland. He was actually first linked with us back in the 80s when Vic Halom gave him a trial but that didn't work out so he went to Nuneaton. John McGrath took him to Preston but let him go again after only one game at centre half. He signed for Newport in 1987 for their last disastrous season in the league and ended up playing at centre forward because there was no one else. He scored 3 goals and that got him a £17,000 move to Sheffield United In March 1988. They were relegated at the end of the season and Paul was discarded after only 8 appearances moving to Hartlepool for £3,000 in 1989. He only got 8 games there and joined Stockport on a free in 1990. It really was last chance saloon but Paul thrived on Andy Kilner's crosses and scored 14 in 24 games. That resulted in a £250,000 move to West Brom in March 1991 which is still surrounded by rumour. Stockport had another Paul Williams a young black defender and the story went out that assistant-manager Stuart Pearson had signed the wrong one with manager Bobby Gould coming into the dressing room the next day and asking Paul "Who the hell are you ?" At the time Pearson and Gould were having a highly unprofessional public feud so that perhaps fed the flames. Either way Paul was a flop at The Hawthorns scoring 5 goals in 44 appearances and regularly being nominated as their worst ever player although surprisingly that's usually accompanied by the observation that he tried hard. Whilst there he made the briefest of international appearances for Northern Ireland as a late sub against the Faroe Islands in 1991 and even made a couple of appearances in the Premiership in 1992 when Gould took him on loan at Coventry. Stockport bought him back for 10% of the original fee in January 1993 but soon came to regret it. He was involved in controversy when he launched a throw into the area for the winning goal against Chesterfield after the ball had been put into touch for an injury. He also antagonised everyone at the club by flaunting his wealth after marrying the chairman's daughter so Bergara turned to his usual solution to a problem player.
Paul made his debut for us in midfield away at Crewe and did absolutely nothing apart from score a spectacular volley from the edge of the box. The following Monday he pulled a fast one on both clubs by telling each he was training with the other. Despite this he played in the next game at home to Bury and scored a scrappy winner. He wasn't allowed to play in the FA Cup games so he only played one other game then returned to Stockport.
That should have been the end of it but Sutton went back for him in February 1994 and ended up giving him a 2.5 year deal and a big signing-on fee as Stockport were so keen to offload him they said he could have the transfer fee himself. That didn't seem to have rung any alarm bells with Sutton although Docherty later claimed he had pleaded with Sutton not to sign him knowing he was a troublemaker.
Paul was a massive bloke, 6'3 and over 14 stone but actually not that good in the air because he couldn't get off the ground. His nickname Willow was appropriate because he had the mobility of a tree, constantly berating his team-mates for not putting the ball within an inch of his boot. I thought he was a total fraud of a footballer who could only be effective when opponents, conscious of his size and mad eyes, gave him the room to play. Anyone brave enough to get up close could just snuff him out of the game. A former team-mate at Stockport that I'd better not name alleged that Paul used to arrange his sendings-off to suit his social calendar and when you saw him running after the ref at Chester (the fastest he ever moved in a Dale shirt) to harangue him over a penalty until he saw red you could believe it. Paul didn't play enough games that season to qualify as a "Rodney Marsh" signing who wrecked our play-off chances but he certainly didn't advance them.
Paul didn't make too bad a start to the 1994-95 season scoring 5 goals in the first 9 games and being actually quite impressive when he went in goal after Chris Clarke's injury during an Autoglass game at Blackpool. It didn't last as he fell out with Sutton after justified criticism of his awful performance at the back away at Torquay and was dropped for Sutton's final game at Hartlepool. Things didn't get better under Docherty; he made a substitute appearance in his first game then didn't feature for the rest of the season. Indeed Docherty started making him a scapegoat for the club's ills saying that Williams' long expensive contract was restricting his options.
In the summer of 1995 Docherty wanted to pay him off but the Board refused to let the deal go through. Paul himself put a spin on it that he had declined because he wanted to stay and prove the fans wrong. He made a reasonable start in flicking the ball on for Dave Tompson's equaliser in the first game at home to Cardiff but his cause was utterly lost in the second leg of a League Cup tie at York when, under no pressure, he headed over from less than a yard out and cost us a game at Old Trafford. To make matters worse he had a dressing room spat with the inoffensive Jason Peake over it. After that his Dale career consisted of sporadic sunstitute appearances. His last useful contribution was a flick on for Mark Stuart's winner at Lincoln though he still created mini-dramas like knocking himself out away at Fulham and getting booked within a minute of coming on at Exeter. Towards the end of the season he was loaned out to Doncaster for a month announcing himself with a spectacular volleyed goal again and thought he had done enough to get a contract there but when we finally released him in May 1996 he had to settle for Altrincham.
He played just 7 games for them without scoring then retired to run a sandwich shop with his wife. He made the news a couple of years later when he injured himself falling off a horse.