08 June 2021

Free agent Jonny Williams hopes to emulate Hal Robson-Kanu’s heroics for Wales

08 June 2021

Jonny Williams hopes to emulate Hal Robson-Kanu’s 2016 heroics for Wales after finding himself without a club at Euro 2020.

Williams is a free agent after being released by Cardiff last month, just like Robson-Kanu was five years ago when he scored the winner in the opening group victory over Slovakia before producing his famous ‘Cruyff Turn’ goal against Belgium in the quarter-finals.

“I’ve been practicing my Cruyff turns like Hal,” Williams said at Wales’ Baku base ahead of their tournament opener against Switzerland on Saturday.

Wales v Belgium – UEFA Euro 2016 – Quarter Final – Stade Pierre Mauroy (PA Archive)

“That would be nice on a free agent (to score in the quarter-final). Obviously it’s never nice being released.

“But I feel relaxed and good in myself, I feel strong.

“I thought I played well (for Cardiff) when I had the chance, but I just didn’t get the rub of the green in team selections.”

Williams moved up to the Sky Bet Championship from League One at the start of February, leaving Charlton to join Cardiff.

Originally I thought I was staying at the end of the season so it came as a bit of a surprise to me

But the 27-year-old was injured at the beginning of his Cardiff career and struggled for game time, making only one league start under Mick McCarthy.

Even then, Williams said he expected to be a Cardiff player next season.

He said: “Originally I thought I was staying at the end of the season so it came as a bit of a surprise to me.

“But at the same time football doesn’t surprise me.

Cardiff City v Nottingham Forest – Sky Bet Championship – Cardiff City Stadium (PA Wire)

“I’ve been in the game for 10 years and experienced a lot of ups and downs.

“You take it on the chin, move on and I’m a free agent again. I’ve been in this position before and I’ll just try to keep fighting and enjoy my football.

“It was disappointing the way it panned out at Cardiff because I was excited to move there, but someone’s made a decision and I’ve got to move on.

“Everything happens for a reason and I’ll see what happens this summer.”

Wales v Slovakia – UEFA Euro 2016 – Group B – Stade de Bordeaux (PA Archive)

Williams is among the eight survivors from the Wales Euro 2016 squad that reached the semi-finals in France.

He started the 2-1 defeat of Slovakia, winning the free-kick that led to Gareth Bale’s opening goal, and is delighted to be at the European Championship again.

“A small part of me thinks you have to be careful, especially in friendlies, as I’m out of contract,” said Williams, who was the victim of some poor challenges during Saturday’s goalless warm-up draw with Albania.

“There’s time when it’s been unneeded for tackles to be flying in, as it’s not really aimed at the ball.

“But come the Euros that all goes out of the window. What’s at stake is so high and it’s all in.

“It’s no time for holding back and you give it your all. It’s massive that we start well.

“Switzerland is a team we think we can beat and, like five years ago, the first game is so important to get off the mark.

“It sets you up because if you do have a blip you’ve got the third game to come.”

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