There was no soft-soaping from the Irishman; no hard sell either. Instead, Fenlon laid bare all the problems that he had at Easter Road, then told the goalkeeper exactly what he planned to do with them. “The manager was brutally honest with me,” explained Williams, who has played his part in an impressive start to the season which has seen many of those problems ironed out. “It’s what I wanted and asked for. He laid out what he was going to be doing – releasing who he’d like to release and bringing in quality players. A top-six finish was what we were striving for. There had been 18 months to two years of under-achieving.
“Everyone says the facilities are great, which they are. The stadium is fantastic, the supporters are great and the training ground is great. But if your 11 on the pitch isn’t performing, it doesn’t matter: you could be playing anywhere. That’s what he said to me. He made his point very clear, and it’s stood me in good stead with him. It’s coming to fruition now.”
Having begun his senior career in his home city with Manchester United, then moved on to Crewe, Colchester and Carlisle, the 30-year-old has been around the block a few times. After hearing Fenlon’s assessment of Hibs, he asked others what they thought, and learned they were in agreement: here was a club which had been under-achieving for too long, and had a chance to make a significant improvement this season. “There’s not many managers that you’d walk in and ask what’s going to happen and they’d turn round and give you an honest and frank opinion that the team isn’t good enough. A lot would gloss over it. I could tell straight away that he had the right idea and was the man with the plan.
“You do your own due diligence and decide whether you’ve got a chance with that. After I spoke to the manager I came away, and I thought we’ve got a fantastic opportunity to push the club on. Improve things on the pitch and just be difficult to beat, which we have done – we’ve lost one in seven, and that was the first game of the season.
“It’s probably the best way of doing it – you ask people in and around Scottish football, they’ll say the same things that I’ve just said about the facilities being fantastic and the team underperforming. Football should be done that way: honestly. If you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and put the hard work in, it’ll pay off.”
Williams aims to help extend Hibs’ unbeaten run in the SPL to eight games today, but will be wary of Aberdeen striker Scott Vernon, who was a team-mate of his at Colchester. Vernon was in and out of the team then, but Williams saw enough of his ability to conclude he deserved a regular place. “He’s good enough to play every week. The first game of the season we beat Norwich 7-1: he didn’t start, but he came on and scored. It’s pretty much what he has always done. I’ve always found he’s done what he’s been asked to do.
“He’s a good hard-working lad, an honest lad, and someone I got on with quite well at Colchester. I came across him before as well, when he was at Crewe and I was at Blackpool.
“When I signed for Colchester he was in and out of the team with the manager, so he said it was nice to be playing week in, week out [at Aberdeen].”
Of course, any goalkeeper who is questioned about any striker can only go so far in his praise, and Williams was no different when asked if Vernon had got the better of him in training. “No, I wouldn’t say so,” he replied calmly.
Meanwhile, Craig Brown has told Aberdeen it is time to end their long wait for a home win. The Dons broke their home goalscoring duck last week when Gavin Rae headed the opener against Motherwell but they still needed two late goals to rescue an unlikely point. The only other time Aberdeen have opened the scoring in the SPL this season was against St Johnstone in Perth and that resulted in their only three points of the season.
Brown said: “We have avoided defeat in the last eight matches but we have drawn five of them, which is disappointing. It sounds good being eight games unbeaten. But you get six points for winning two games and five points for five draws. It’s time to win games, particularly at home.
“It won’t be for the want of trying if we don’t because there is a real determination about this group. You can see that in the recoveries we have had. I said to them we want to be in the ascendancy and then dig in to retain a lead rather than having to fight back.
“That red army is due a win at home. We have got to get that as early as possible and there is no better way to do it than to beat Hibs and close the gap on them and confirm the first five league games were no fluke.”