Project Williams is a key mission for Cotts

Ryan Williams and takes on Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa
Ryan Williams and takes on Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa
Joe Hancott in action for Pompey Reserves against Southend. Picture: Colin Farmery

Harris hails Pompey Reserves’ performance

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It’s a high priority mission Steve Cotterill is determined to see through to a successful conclusion.

For the Pompey boss, Project Williams has to be carefully orchestrated and is currently in its infancy.

But the process of guiding teenage prodigy Ryan Williams through the different phases of development to becoming a talented top-level player is something Cotterill believes now simply has to take place.

And managing that process is going to be a hands-on job for the Blues manager.

The evolution of Chris McCann, Kyle Lafferty, Kris Commons and Gary Cahill into successful pros are all previous projects Cotterill has been involved in.

It may be a lengthy process but he sees qualities in Williams which can take the Aussie to similar highs – if he is managed properly.

Cotterill said: ‘Ryan’s the one I like. Having a 17-year-old around us creates a freshness and there’s a future there for him.

‘I’ll be taking Ryan everywhere.

‘We’ll take him to these stadiums. He’s going to go there and end up being out on the pitch and in and around the club.

‘We want him used to all those surroundings.

‘Sometimes stadiums can be daunting – let alone the opposition.

‘It’s great experience for him.

‘We have to make sure he doesn’t go too long without having a game.

‘That’s something we’ll have to assess in a while.

‘He’s going to be playing against Betis. How good is that for kid of his age?

‘I have to get him through, though. It has to happen. That’s my little side project, if you like.

‘I have to plan it right for him and bring him through.

‘I’m hoping I’m right in what I’m saying. Until he gets on that stage and has to do it every week we won’t know.

‘It might not happen until he’s 19.

‘It might take two years, like it did with McCann, Lafferty, Kris Commons and Gary Cahill.

‘But they all came through in the end. Hopefully, Ryan will do the same.

‘It’s fantastic when it’s one of your own. I think every manager gets that buzz, especially when it’s a young player.’

Williams has been able to integrate himself into the first-team squad since being elevated into the set-up over the summer. Cotterill earmarked him for a fast-track development when he caught his eye in a friendly against Farnborough last season.

Being in with the big boys has meant the teenager has been on the receiving end in the banter stakes.

But Cotterill explained his cheeky character means he can give as good as he gets.

He said: ‘Ryan’s a very grounded boy. There’s no way he’d get above his station or be allowed to.

‘He’s fitted in great, the lads love him and they’ve taken him under their wings.

‘He gives it out and he’s a right infectious character. He has that bit of scally about him I like, too.

‘When I saw him at Farnborough last season I thought he might have a chance.

‘Then it was a case of “what is his character like?”

‘He got some stick for having a flash toiletries bag.

‘So if he ever thinks he’s going to turn up with a funky watch or new car he’ll get a short, sharp shock.

‘The lads play with him, telling him he’s big time.

‘The other day there was an audience at the training ground and Ryan nudged me in the back and said: “Get that Liam Lawrence off”.

‘So I told Liam and Liam asked him about it. Ryan denied every word!

‘There’s that banter about him – he’s a good kid.’

Much has been made of Williams’ potential and that of England under-17 talent Sam Magri.

Cotterill believes Magri is another who can go a long way but has had to rein in the Fratton lad of late.

He said: ‘I’m hoping the same will come from Sam Magri as Ryan.

‘He came back and started training too early, though, so we’ve gone and shut him down.

‘We’ll do that for two to three weeks. When he comes back we’ll try to integrate him into training with us.

‘He’s another one who’s got an opportunity of coming through.

‘We need to get him through and allow him to bed in.’