Eagle and Dragon - A glimpse of Jonathan Williams
Twitter is great. I follow all sorts of people on Twitter, from some bloke who used to be on Blue Peter to a chap who once recommended an obscure Brazilian compilation album to me. I also follow lots of people who don’t present live football on Sky Sports.
A few of whom are Crystal Palace fans. You can tell them apart from the supporters of all the other clubs in the Football League by the preponderance of red and blue in their profile pictures, the #FFSMurray hashtag and fifteen updates per second whenever Palace are playing (“Palace corner!” … “Cleared!” … “We’ve got a throw-in!” … “Another throw-in!”). I might not be sure of the scores elsewhere but one glance at Twitter and I always know exactly where on the pitch the ball was twenty seconds ago in any Crystal Palace match. Oh, and then there’s Joniesta…
Joniesta started popping up on my Twitter feed during the summer. A non-football aficionado could have been forgiven for supposing that Palace had signed an exciting foreigner. I saw the last six letters and immediately assumed they had a young player coming up through the ranks who they were comparing to a certain A. Iniesta of Barcelona, Spain and general World Cup Final winning goal fame. What a label.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen said player in action yet, save for a few glimpses here and there. But it seems that is all some opposition defenders get of him too. His name is Jonathan Williams and he has just been called up to the full Wales squad at 17 years of age, following an earlier call-up to their Under-21 setup at the ripe old vintage of 16. Palace supporters are excited about him, the majority of Wales fans may soon join them and the inevitable links to Premier League giants haven’t been slow to surface either.
With Palace conspicuous by their absence from the nation’s television screens so far this season, Joniesta has retained a fairly low profile. No live transmission of a wonder goal, no admiring glances from sofas up and down the country (save for the few hardy souls who have stayed up long enough to catch him at work on the Football League Show for the same duration of time it takes an England rugby player to disgrace himself on a typical night out) – in fact, hardly anything has been made of Joniesta outside of Selhurst Park from what I can work out.
So what type of player is he, other than the next coming of Iniesta? Well, he has also been compared to his fellow Twitter phenomenon and England international Jack Wilshere. Assuming that this is due to his height (5 ft 5), low centre of gravity and comfort on the ball rather than young fatherhood and appearances in car adverts looking glum, we are already building up a picture of Palace’s latest great hope.
And the portrait that emerges is of a slight, short but dynamic midfielder, equally at home on the wing or further infield, with the ability to ghost past opposition players and an eye for a killer through-ball. He can fend off a challenge too by all accounts, despite his slender stature, and is sponsored by NHG Timbers – the natural source of world hardwoods, apparently. Not that this means anything obviously, or Luis Suarez would share a sponsor with Tom Daley.
Palace may just have a gem on their hands and their supporters can point to recent history as an example of why Joniesta should remain with them in the Championship for now. The descriptions of the young Welshman sound strikingly similar to those that began to filter out of the Eagles camp when John Bostock was in his mid-teens. Bostock, as we all know, moved to Tottenham Hotspur and his career has not followed the same trajectory that many predicted.
In fact, Bostock is exactly two weeks younger than Wilshere. While it may be that he was never destined to become as impressive a player as the Arsenal man, who knows what he could have done by now had he stayed with Palace and established himself as a first-team regular? It is an obvious comparison to draw.
The Championship has also moved on in the past few seasons. There is more football played on the ground now than when Bostock left Palace, as a succession of managers begin to see the merits of a passing game. They were inspired by the tiki-taka of Barcelona and Spain. And they may soon find their teams getting torn apart by Joniesta.