Last season was one to forget for Rhys Williams and Boro fans alike. Injured playing at Gillingham last August Rhys worked hard to get back into the team but Rolls Rhys simply failed to click and around him the team faltered badly.
Here is a short interview with Boro’s skipper Rhys Williams conducted just before the big kick off at the start of August (originally published in fmttm)
Fly: A fresh start after last season makes a big difference I suppose.
Rhys: Yes it does. I was speaking to my wife the other day, I don’t like saying this but it was maybe a blessing in disguise not getting picked for Australia because I didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. A blessing in disguise when I could go away get married and spend some time with my family which I haven’t had for a few years. It cleared my head and gave me a lot of time to think of where I went wrong and things I need to do and ultimately I need to work harder and that last season affected me big time. I can honestly say it is a season to forget and hopefully I can forget it as soon as possible with a good start to the season. Personally, hopefully I can start the season really brightly and hopefully people can forget last season like I want to.
Fly: Unfortunately for you, you have had a few long term injuries in the past and somehow always clicked into gear immediately when you’ve come back. You probably expected to again.
Rhys: I think that’s what I expected yes. I have got such high expectations of myself. I never slack off, I like to be a winner. No player likes being out of the side. At the time we had a couple if injuries as well and I saw the gap to get in. Now that I have got that experience, if it did happen again, touch wood it won’t, I can take a step back and say I’m not ready. But yes like you said the last few times I have been injured I have come back and hit the heights that are expected and this time I didn’t. I think a lot of people expected me to, myself included and it just didn’t work and from there it just didn’t seem to pick up. And yes I have learned a lot about last season and learned a lot about myself and what I need to do and yes I have just had a big lesson in life and football.
Fly: For the team that second half of the season was such a nightmare. Everyone has been able to go away and maybe we can put it all behind us?
Rhys: Yes, hopefully, the start will tell all. I think it was hard as well having so long out and wanting to be the captain and lead the boys and maybe it just got too much for me, especially coming back from long term. But the gaffer’s been good with me this year, I’ve kept the captaincy and maybe this year it will be different.
It was nice to finally get a pre-season under my belt. I hadn’t done a proper one for four years, although the gaffer gave me a couple of days when I got married. So, I’ve had the lead up with the boys, I have done everything with the boys, I haven’t missed a session yet, touch wood. I’ve played the most minutes so far. So hopefully this season will be good and I can focus while I’ve got the fitness in the pocket now and it is just the performances that need to come and hopefully I can drive the team forward.
Fly: At least you won’t be going down to Gillingham and playing in midfield again in the cup, bad memories for you.
Rhys: I was playing right wing back when I did my ankle and hopefully we’ve got some cover in there now and I won’t have to play there again. I’d like to make that centre half position my own this season. There’s a lot of competition with Seb and you’ve got Ben Gibson who is on fire this pre-season. It is making me kick on a lot more with Gibbo’s performances and the way he is pushing me all the way. I think the gaffer could easily say at the start of the season it’s a battle between me and Gibson for that space alongside Woody.
Fly: The Riverside will be a bit different in the coming season with Boro fans at both ends and a new family enclosure in the East Stand.
Rhys: Yes, it was actually quite weird clapping the fans behind the other goal against Bordeaux. I know there were only a handful fans there but it was a nice difference to see the fans behind the goal. I think it will be good to get the families in there and the away fans maybe a smaller section. And hopefully we can bring back some more fans to fill it.
Fly: We have a good test to start with against Leicester who went right through to the play-offs. Too early to say it can be a yardstick but it is certainly a good contest to start with, is it not?
Rhys: Yes it is. I think you always hope for a good start. I think the fans that were there against Bordeaux saw the way we played it was a very good team effort. I thought we all got behind the ball, we looked really fit, we made chances, had shots and ultimately we came out winners as well and I think that is the main thing. I think a lot of people might have been surprised with that with it being the French Cup winners and we gave them a lot of problems. With all due respect to them I don’t think Woody and me had too much to do. I know we will probably expect a lot more from Leicester.
Fly: The two new players, Dean Whitehead and Jozsef Varga that have come in, it was clear to see their positive influence on the midfield. The competitiveness and..
Rhys: … The drive, yes. I think Deano has come in and has played in this league before and he has got out of this League and gone to the Prem and gone on to bigger and better things and it was nice for him to come in he is a great lad. With him, Leads and Jozsef in there all three of them are top quality players. You saw Leads last season won all the awards and quite frankly deserved every one he got and should have got more, so I am pleased that Dean and Jozsef have come in. They fit in really well and it’s been good that they have been here since the start of pre-season as well they have not missed a lot at all. It is obviously great to have some new players and that experience and it shows.
Fly: Upfront, Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz played so well together v Bordeaux. That really looks promising, a very good partnership.
Rhys: Yes it does. I know not a lot of fans see them training day in day out but they have both been on fire. And there has not been one player I would say that has been under performing. There’s competition for places. Like I said, personally with Gibbo coming in behind it is making me step up and I know it is a nice headache for the gaffer to have everyone performing.