With the Scottish Premiership season reaching its halfway stage, Ross McLean catches up with ex-Kendal Town winger Danny Williams about life in the full-time game.
AFTER patiently biding his time, former Parkside Road favourite Danny Williams is firmly making his mark in professional football north of the border – with the ink drying on a new two-year contract.
The 25-year-old initially signed a one-year deal with Inverness Caledonian Thistle during the summer after spending much of last season on loan at Chester City from Kendal.
Since moving to the Scottish Highlands, nine substitute appearances preceded a full debut in the home clash with Aberdeen shortly before Christmas.
And while the speedy wingman’s introduction to life in the fast lane has been more slow-burner than instant, he is keen to grab his chance to impress.
“Making my full professional football debut was a good feeling particularly as I didn’t expect it,” he said.
“One of the lads was having a fitness test after picking up a knock and was deemed unfit so I got the nod.
“I only found out in the dressing room an hour or so before kick-off. It was a pretty special moment for me and my parents were up that weekend as well.
“The starting eleven has been practically the same all season long and I was coming off the bench quite a lot and not starting many games.
“But we’ve had a few injuries and suspensions of late and I’ve come in now and been given a chance, hopefully I will keep my place.”
Aged ten, Williams drew admiring glances from Liverpool before four years with Wigan Athletic failed to produce the offer of a YTS contract on leaving school.
His senior career began at Daisy Hill – winning the North West Counties League player of the year at only 19 – before a move to FC United of Manchester, where he suffered a broken leg in his debut season.
Joining the Mintcakes from Clitheroe in February 2011, he introduced himself with successive ‘man of the match’ accolades in his first three games.
An impressive stint paved the way for his spell at the Deva Stadium – making 33 appearances en route to collecting a Conference North winners’ medal.
With the silverware box ticked, a four-figure fee paved the way for his move to Inverness where he has now started the Caley Jags’ last five matches.
This included one game in particular which will live long in the memory – Celtic who earlier in the season faced the might of Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.
Having successfully climbed the football ladder, such moments are a far cry from humble beginnings although Williams seems to be taking the transition in his stride.
“The Celtic game was quite a day and it was on TV as well, all my family were watching and it was a big occasion,” he added.
“They have some top players and were playing in the Nou Camp not so long ago so it’s an incredible transformation from where I have come from.
“I have really enjoyed it here in Inverness and that match was another great moment. It’s a totally different lifestyle to what I was used to.
“I’m training most days now as opposed to working and training twice a week and that’s a big difference between the full-time and semi-professional game.
“Back then if I could have trained every day alongside work I would have because it’s what I love doing. I feel very lucky to be able to do it every day.”
Inverness narrowly missed out on European adventures last season although a fourth-place finish represented the club’s finest-ever top flight campaign.
Manager Terry Butcher has since departed for pastures new – replaced by John Hughes – with Thistle currently nine points off the European qualification pace.
And while Inverness are yet to taste victory with Williams a starter, the Wigan-born flyer – now contracted to the club until 2016 – has half an eye on future continental jaunts.
“Terry is a really good manager but it’s going fine under the new boss – he’s the one who gave me my first start so I can’t complain.
“He has his own ideas and hopefully we’ll stay up there in the league and better last year.”