Newcastle’s back four and goalkeeper this season have received so many accolades and plaudits for their efforts, and rightly so. Fabricio Coloccini has been ‘Captain Fantastic’ in the middle, but not so much has been mentioned about his partner, Mike Williamson.
In the absence of Steven Taylor, Williamson has had to step up this season, and he has done spectacularly.
While there was that one blemish on his record in giving away the penalty against Sunderland at St James’ Park for a tug on Michael Turner, by and large he has been dependable and strong when needed.
Signed from Portsmouth in 2010 with the Magpies in the Championship, he hardly got the fans imaginations racing. But, at 6’4 he offers a commanding presence at the heart of the defence, and has made huge strides this season, without doubt.
His performance on Wednesday night against Champions League finalists Chelsea was perhaps the crowning moment, and a sign that he should maybe start receiving more recognition for his performances. He handled Torres and Drogba with consummate ease, and this also shows his potential versatility.
When Spaniard Torres was deployed as the lone striker, Williamson recognized the difference in pace and defended deeper, meaning there was no space for the in-form number 9 to run in behind, and allowed Tiote to shut down the space in front of the back four. With Drogba, he got much tighter and allowed the Ivorian no space to ‘bully’ him, as well as dominating in the air. It was merely the latest great performance from the 28 year old, a real success story this season.
Tony Adams, when manager of Wycombe Wanderers, once signed Williamson, and on evidence like this season there is certainly a touch on the way Adams used to play at Arsenal in his game.
If Newcastle do make the Champions League this year, can they rely on players like Williamson to perform at the highest club level there is? There is definitely a question mark over this. However, what must be said is that without players in the mould of him, they wouldn’t even be near to achieving the previously unthinkable and securing a Champions League spot.
It will be interesting to see how Newcastle do line-up next season in European competition, with two main conundrums facing Alan Pardew. Firstly, he must assemble a side which is able to compete with the best, yet at the same time also juggle his squad to take into account the punishing schedule which they will face. Whilst currently Newcastle’s squad is certainly capable of playing, it is simply not deep enough for the potential challenges ahead.
This season, by and large, the starting side has always been the same, and Pardew will need Mike Ashley to dig out his cheque book in order to strengthen the ranks. It will be a challenge, and one which they won’t get through unless they utilise all their squad members, meaning players like Williamson have a huge role to play in the Magpies future.