Darren Fletcher advice helps take Ben Williams to Easter Road
BEN Williams became Hibernian’s fourth summer signing yesterday after advice from Scotland captain Darren Fletcher helped persuade him to turn down alternative offers from English championship clubs.
The 29-year-old goalkeeper, who was out of contract after turning down a new deal at Colchester United, has penned a two-year deal at Easter Road. Williams started his career at Manchester United, where he became close friends with Fletcher.
Despite the current troubles afflicting Scottish football, and Hibs’ flirtation with relegation last season, he insists he had no hesitation in committing himself to a new challenge in the SPL.
“I spoke to Darren, who grew up in the area around here and knows all about Hibs,” said Williams. “We had the same agent when we were at United together and there is a strong link between us. I also spoke to John Rankin, who used to play here and was also at United as a kid with me. It was good to draw upon what they said about Hibs.
“I first spoke to the manager [Pat Fenlon] a couple of weeks ago. He outlined everything he wanted to do with the club, in terms of pushing it forward, and he didn’t have to sell it very hard. I had other options back home in England, I could have gone to the Championship. But I wanted to play first-team football at this stage of my career. When a club like Hibs comes in, the size and standing of it, with the passionate derbies and pushing for Europe, then there is only one place you want to be. What’s happening in Scottish football generally at the moment doesn’t concern me. I just focus on joining Hibs and pushing this club up to where it should be.”
Williams, who had spells with Crewe Alexandra and Carlisle United before moving to Colchester in 2009, believes the grounding he received during his time under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford has served him well.
“I had four years at United, a year while I was still studying at college and then three as a full-time professional,” he added. “I left when I was 21 in search of regular football. I spent my last two years there as third choice behind Tim Howard and Roy Carroll, without getting the opportunity to play. When I spoke to the manager at the time, it was decided the best thing for me to do was to start my playing career elsewhere rather than sit around at United.
“Sir Alex was fantastic with me. It was never a problem to knock on his door and ask for any advice or help. When it came to the crunch about my career, he was open and honest with me.
“Since then, I haven’t looked back. I’ve played ever since and I’m thankful for that.
“It was a fantastic apprenticeship and a fast learning curve. I went from being in college doing my A levels at 17 to sitting on the bench for Champions League games when I was 19. It stood me in very good stead.”
Williams, who has been given squad No 1 by Hibs, insists he fully appreciates the circumstances under which he is joining the club following their humiliating Scottish Cup final defeat against Hearts at the end of last season.
“I didn’t see the final but I’ve been informed of it and I understand what went on,” he said. “But now I’m looking forward to helping the club draw a line in the sand, putting that to bed and kicking on. We have to concentrate on what Hibs are going to do this season. I know how good the set-up is and how much the east side of Edinburgh is crying out for some success. In all honesty, it has been plain to see for the last 18 months. It has been below the standards which the club and supporters expect.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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