THE Irish are set to invade Wembley on Sunday to watch promising defender Derrick Williams feature for Bristol City against Walsall in the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy Final.
Former Republic of Ireland under 21 international Williams and Galway’s Greg Cunningham are part of the League One leaders squad. Managed by former Sligo Rovers boss Steve Cotterill Bristol City - who will bring 40,000 supporters to the iconic London venue - have impressed throughout the campaign with Williams hugely effective.
“It should be a great weekend, and a great day out for people,” Williams, who played for AFC Tramore as a youngster, told The Irish Post. “I’ve friends and mostly family coming over spread out from all over Ireland. I had to get 24 tickets - people are coming from Mayo, Monaghan, and Waterford so it is great.
“It is my first time being involved at Wembley so it is nice. Overall it has been a good season so far for us, but we have to keep it going over the next five weeks or so. We’ve got a good bunch of lads involved and there is a really good team spirit.
“I think that has been really important for us throughout the season, there has been a sense that everyone is together. That can help you get success.”
In June 2013 Williams joined Bristol City despite being offered a new deal with Aston Villa. “Leaving Aston Villa was a tough decision because I could have stayed,” Williams admitted.
“Still when you look at it now in the last two years I wouldn’t have got anywhere near as many first team games under my belt. This is what I want to do: to play. I could have stayed on with Villa, I really enjoyed my time there, but I was at a stage where I needed to gain experience.”
Having made 79 appearances for Bristol City Williams would love to eventually earn a place in the Republic of Ireland senior squad. “If we get promoted it would be brilliant. I think realistically we need to get promoted if I am to get into the reckoning for the senior squad.
“That is definitely one of my goals, but I know we have to get promoted. If we do get up people like Martin O’Neill will be going to games and they’d be able to watch me which would be great.
“I was very young when Martin O’Neill was the manager at Aston Villa, but he came to Youth Cup games and I have good memories of him talking to us before those games.”
Twenty two year old Williams also highlighted Richard Dunne’s role in his development at Villa. “As a young lad with Villa I remember watching James Collins and Richard Dunne. At the time they were one of the best partnerships in the Premier League so it was brilliant to be able to watch and learn from them.
“Villa had one of their best seasons in years and the two of them were fantastic the whole season. It was a real help to watch them. Richard was sound; you could ask him lots and he was very helpful to me always when I was at Villa.”