Farewell to ex-Millwall stalwart who escaped the Portsmouth limelight and was more appreciated by team-mates than supporters

The sight of a shaking Shaun Williams confined to a wheelchair and subsequent disturbing injury diagnosis suggested, not unreasonably, his Fratton Park career was over.

Monday, 23rd May 2022, 6:00 pm
Shaun Williams made 35 appearance for Pompey in his first and only Fratton Park season. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
Shaun Williams made 35 appearance for Pompey in his first and only Fratton Park season. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

The Irishman returned, however, in a typically understated, no fuss manner which epitomised a Pompey stay now declared over.

The former Millwall man was not one for the limelight, perfectly content to maintain a low profile while diligently carrying out Blues duties with characteristic commitment.

Williams was always politely obliging when asked for a post-match interview, yet painfully uncomfortable in such circumstances.

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Tellingly, neither was he regarded as captaincy material, with the likes of Ronan Curtis and Sean Raggett thrust into the role when Clark Robertson was absent from the first-team.

In truth, the 35-year-old’s low-key presence was barely noticed by supporters, of which many struggled to pinpoint the significance of his ongoing selection.

Nonetheless, Williams’ contribution and willingness to impart advice to youngsters was hugely respected by team-mates, who recognised talents underappreciated by many.

Usually, footballing peers are an excellent judge of character and, particularly in this instance, there was perhaps more admiration within the dressing room than among the stands.

Not that the often phlegmatic Williams would have been concerned, of course.

Over 35 Blues appearances, last summer’s free transfer arrival from Millwall demonstrated himself to be a whole-hearted, versatile and extremely capable performer.

Possessing the ability to feature as a holding midfielder or third central defender, the former Republic of Ireland international offered Danny Cowley crucial flexibility within a small playing squad.

By Cowley’s admission, the veteran was called upon rather more than anticipated upon his June 2021 arrival on a 12-month deal lacking an option.

Regardless, it was needs must as Pompey’s head coach regularly turned to Williams for assistance through frequent bouts of injury crises which gripped the Blues.

In addition, his left-footed delivery from corners was often utilised in a team which frustratingly lacked set-piece takers of any calibre until Michael Jacobs earned a regular spot.

Williams’ issue, however, was his Pompey roles were merely functional, duties unable to excite the crowd, while a missed penalty at Doncaster represented the closest he came to scoring.

Considering his age, inevitably this was not the same player which rattled up 295 appearances in seven-and-a-half years at The Den.

Then, with time ticking down on his Pompey contract, Williams fractured his spine against Charlton in January, damaging L4 and L5 vertebrae following a freak collision with Robertson.

That night he occupied a wheelchair and was draped in a blanket as he was transported to a waiting ambulance to be taken to QA Hospital. It was an awful sight for those in the vicinity.

Ever-committed, Williams returned almost seven weeks later, featuring five times, including two starts, albeit neither reaped victory.

Cowley opted not to utilise Williams from the bench for the last three matches, ensuring last month’s 1-1 draw at Morecambe signified a farewell outing.

Following the announcement of Pompey’s retained list, he now departs, admittedly with a mixed reception from supporters.

Yet Williams should be remembered as a player who gave his all whenever called upon in a variety of positions – and fought back from a broken spine to do so.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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