Jonny Williams wondered if he would ever get the chance to represent Wales again
Wales hero Jonny Williams admits he had doubts over gracing the international stage again after a “roller-coaster” career which has included seven different loan spells.
Williams scored a superb late winner – his first Wales goal – as Ryan Giggs’ side moved back to the top of their Nations League group with a 1-0 victory in Bulgaria on Wednesday.
The Charlton midfielder was part of the Wales squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, but his Crystal Palace career stalled as he made only 16 league starts in eight years.
Williams, 27, had four loan spells at Ipswich, as well as similar stays at Nottingham Forest, MK Dons and Sunderland, before finding regular first-team football at League One Charlton.
“There were times when I wondered if I’d ever be back in a Wales shirt a couple of years ago,” Williams said.
“I’ve had so many highs in a Wales shirt but at club level I’ve been knocked back quite a few times.
“I’ve not been picked or I’ve been sent on loan numerous times. I’ve not been given a chance and I don’t know why.
“Some people have amazing careers, just up, up, up – mine’s been a bit of a roller-coaster.
“At times I did wonder when I’d score my first Wales goal and I still can’t quite believe it. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Williams was an uncapped 18-year-old substitute when Wales were previously in Sofia in 2011.
Gareth Bale was the match-winner on that occasion as the late Gary Speed’s side beat Bulgaria 1-0 in Euro 2012 qualifying.
“I was in the stands and watching the likes of Bellers (Craig Bellamy) and Balo (Bale), world legends,” said Williams, who is a real favourite with the Wales fans.
Some people have amazing careers, just up, up, up - mine's been a bit of a roller-coaster
“Nine years later and I’m scoring the winner. It’s crazy how football works.
“Me and Ben (Davies) laugh about it now, we’ve been there since we were young kids and I had loads of hair.
“We were without world-class players, but we’ve still come away to a good team and got three points.
“It’s a really young squad and I’m one of the older ones now. It’s great to help them come through and pass on the confidence, like Gareth and others did for me when I was coming through.”
Wales, who are on a nine-game unbeaten run in competitive football and have not conceded for over 10 hours, are in the box-seat to win Group B4 and secure promotion to League A next month.
The Dragons have closing home games against the Republic of Ireland and Finland, who are a point behind them and also travel to Bulgaria in November.
“It’s a special squad and hopefully we can keep the run going,” Williams said.
“We’ve been keeping a lot of clean sheets and three more points puts us in a great position.”