Noah Dougherty
Thursday 05 September 2019

A season that promised so much for former Welsh international George Williams was dealt a cruel blow less than three minutes into the season opener, as he explains how it happened and his long road to recovery.

Looking back at the incident, three minutes into the first game of the season, did you know straight away that it was a bad one?

The ball popped out to me and I can remember taking my first touch away and I was looking straight on trying to drive forward and I didn’t know anything about it.

I just felt the weight of his body fall on the lower part of my leg and I think the way that he got both feet wrapped around mine in that scissor motion, my leg got stuck and because it was so high, I was mid-running, so it was behind me and it was an awkward position.

It happened so quickly but at the same time, as soon as I knew where his legs were on me, I knew something bad would happen.

I felt a bit of pain and it didn’t feel nice.

You walked off the pitch at the time, did you realise the extent of it?

I tried to stand up and I knew straight away, it felt so unstable. I could feel the bones moving around and I knew straight away that it wasn’t good and I needed to come off.

I am hard as nails me, I thought about trying to run it off when I stood up but that wasn’t happening.

I was devasted and was in tears in the changing room, it was just horrible.

As soon as I realised I had done something bad and I was getting sent for an X-ray and a scan, I knew already that it wasn’t going to be a couple of weeks, you know it is going to be months.

When that hits you after thinking you are going to have such a good season, I enjoyed pre-season, I was feeling really fit, it was just a horrible feeling knowing I am going to be out up until Christmas at least. 

You have this thing deep inside you and it is either fight or flight, you can either get one of these injuries and give up, or you can fight to get yourself back fit and out on the pitch
George Williams

All that build-up for the first game of the season, the last thing you imagined was being stretchered around The New Lawn three minutes in.

It was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. I am grateful that it wasn’t my knee because it was so high, it could have been my knee.

If I am going to look at any positives, it is just a break. The break isn’t the bad part, that would have healed in two or three months but because of the ligament damage as well, that is what is setting it back a little bit longer.

The operation, we got it done pretty quickly, but these first few weeks have been hell.

The first four days were really painful, then after that, the pain settled down and I got the cast off last week and that is the first milestone and the first hurdle to get over.

After a couple of weeks, I will be walking with the boot on, I will be able to get back in the gym and do some single leg work and be with the boys and then the road to recovery starts.

The hardest thing to see is that you’ve been here before, you’ve had your injury setbacks, it felt like you had come through them and you had a full season under your belt, how hard is that to take?

That’s what gets me the most because I have been in this situation before and I know what is coming.

It’s not the physical side of it. Getting back fit is hard but you can do it, it is the mental side of going into work every day and knowing you can’t play, knowing you have got to go an do individual work in the gym.

It is going to be two or three really tough months and that is the mental side of it that is really hard.

This is my third operation now, I’m only 23 and I don’t know why these things keep happening.

I don’t really pick up little niggles or muscle injuries, last season I was available for all but three games, it just feels like whenever I get injured, I get a big one.

This has got to be it. I can’t have another big one after this. My luck has got to turn around. 

George Williams injury Oldham Athletic The New Lawn

Can you draw strength from having been through this before?

The initial two or three days, every time I have been injured, they are the days you feel down.

You rely on the people around you to pick you up and tell you it is going to be alright.

You have this thing deep inside of you and it is either fight or flight, you can either get one of these injuries and give up or you can fight to get yourself back fit and back on the pitch.

The fighter comes out of you and says, ‘I’m not going to let this be the end of me’, you’ve got to get back on the horse and go again.

One difference this time with your lad Carter with you, that must be a massive help for you?

 My little boy puts a smile on my face no matter what and since I’ve had him, you realise that there are things in life that are bigger than football.

As long as he is happy and he sees his dad happy, that is the main thing.

He is getting older now and I think he was enjoying coming to the football, watching and being around everyone.

I’m gutted that he won’t be able to do that now until Christmas time, but he and my partner, Ella, they’ve been a rock.

Ella, I can’t speak highly enough of how supportive she has been, she has looked after me, looked after Carter and been a superwoman for the last few weeks.

The skipper, Joseph Mills, has been around to see you and the boys are all around you aren’t they?

The boys have all messaged me, Fish lives around the corner, so he has popped in with some goodies the day after my operation and Matt has been around as well, so that is my little car school looking after me.

I was really thankful for them, they really cheered me up a lot in the early stages.

How do you approach the next few months now?

Mentally, I’ve got to keep in the right place and I get messages from the fans. I can’t reply to all of them but it does really mean a lot, getting those messages and that picks you up.

They are the supporters, you want to be out there and people saying nice things about you. I just want to get back and play in front of them again.

When you’re injured for a long period of time, it is so easy to go off the rails a bit and fall into bad habits, but you just have to stay positive and keep doing the right things.

Obviously I am gutted that I am injured, five months is a long time, but if I am back playing around January time, hopefully I will get a few months under my belt and have an impact on the season.

The end of the season is the business end, so if I can get myself fit and back up to the standard that I know I can play at, I will be buzzing to contribute to the team.

Newport at home, reflecting on the positives, the reverse fixture last season was probably your best game for the club, how do you reflect on it looking back?

For me, it was massive. I struggled adjusting to League Two in the first two or three months at Forest Green.

The team became a bit established and then it was about waiting for your chance.

Around December time, I was training really well and I got into the team but before that I was questioning myself and wondering why things weren’t clicking for me, why it wasn’t working and I was getting really down about it.

After that game, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders, it felt like something had gone right.

That was such a nice moment.

And, the now iconic celebration, what was going through your head then?

I don’t really know. I had only ever planned for one celebration, that was the knee slide.

So, I just flicked through the catalogue of FIFA celebrations and went for that one.

It actually looks a lot stranger than it did in my head at the time. At the time, I thought it looked quite good.

After it looks a bit silly, but I enjoyed it and the boys have a laugh about it.

It’s moments like those that can pick you up during the low moments during this injury and push you to get back to that level.

Exactly. I don’t think people outside of football realise that there are so many more lows than there are highs in football.

For every one high, there are going to be five or six lows. It is about not letting the lows get you down and when you do have a high, enjoying it.

You can’t get too caught up in it because football is such a crazy game and between a Saturday and Tuesday game, things change in a heartbeat.

You’ve got to stay focused, not let anything else that is going outside of the football club get in your head too much.

One weekend you can be the hero but come Tuesday night, you can be the villain, so you just have to keep your head in the right place.