Williams has been the familiar name on the Town teamsheet this season, be it under Steve Cotterill or former boss Sam Ricketts, writes Lewis Cox.
Even after being left out of the starting line-up for Easter Monday’s 3-0 win over Plymouth, the defender still found himself in the XI that took to the field, filling in for the injured Aaron Pierre with just 10 minutes’ notice before kick-off.
Williams, who has not missed a league game since October, hopes to keep his place in the side – and not as a late replacement – for tomorrow’s clash at Gillingham. Assistant boss Aaron Wilbraham remarked how odd it was giving a team talk to the starting players with the former Manchester United youngster not among them.
Williams has started 35 of 37 League One games, the most of any Town player this season.
As the significant milestone looms large, the defender – who is out of contract this summer – has certainly delivered after gaining the regular football he targeted when joining Shrewsbury from Manchester United two-and-a-half years ago.
“It’s good to be reliable and for the manager to trust you, that gets a lot of people in the team, maybe that’s why I’m in the team most weeks, I don’t know,” Williams, 22, said.
“I definitely want to get to 100 appearances, one of my friends actually mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago when I had 13 games to go.
“I definitely want 100 games for the club, it’ll be a nice achievement, a personal achievement for myself. In the training ground there’s a board with players who have 100 apps’, it’ll be nice for me to get on that board.
“Norbs got it recently, it was a nice thing for him as captain of the club. For me, there’s nine games left and I want to play all of them.”
Williams added on a rare occasion in which he was initially left out of the manager’s starting plans before a late recall: “Football’s full of emotions, I was upset and disappointed, I didn’t want to be on the bench, but the manager made his decision and you have to suck it up, it’s his decision. I got the opportunity to play and I came in and tried to do my best. It’s about dealing with it, I’ve matured now, I’d have probably sulked a couple of years ago.”
It is no fluke that Williams is enjoying his most productive season in senior football to date.
He first arrived in Shropshire from Manchester as a 20-year-old whose lightning-quick speed meant some muscle issues.
But Williams, a regular in a back three alongside Pierre and Ethan Ebanks-Landell, looked to address that during the break due to the pandemic last year, and is reaping the rewards.
“I’ve improved on my gym work this season with AJ (fitness coach Andy Johnson), I had a hamstring problem when I first came,” the defender added.
“I’ve been working harder in the gym than I usually would, it’s probably kept me fitter. When you’re in the flow of playing every week it’s probably harder to take someone out.
“I’ve not had niggles or suspensions to miss games.
“I knew this season would be difficult fitness-wise for players, after lockdown I probably came back the fittest I’ve been with the least body fat, I took a lot of time to get to where I wanted to, to give me the best chance.”
Town, meanwhile, are leaving it late to decide whether fellow defender Pierre will be available to start against play-off chasing Gills in Kent.
Pierre recently returned from two months out with a calf injury but was left out of the handsome Argyle win as a precaution on a separate calf problem.
The Meadow physio team are waiting for the muscle injury to clear up before deciding if it warrants a further scan.
Midfielder Brad Walker (groin) will travel but is not quite ready to return to action.
Right wing-back Josh Daniels (calf) has stepped up his rehabilitation and is running outside in training at Sundorne Castle.