Fulham and Wales midfielder George Williams has revealed how Gareth Bale’s ‘get well’ message gave him the boost he needed to recover from the injury he feared could wreck his Euro 2016 as he looks to seal a chance to go up against close pal Dele Alli in France.
Williams rammed home his credentials for a place in Chris Coleman’s tournament 23 with his performance in Thursday’s draw with Northern Ireland and will again look to press home his claims in Monday’s friendly with Ukraine in Kiev.
But the lively midfielder’s hopes of becoming Wales’ secret weapon this summer were placed in doubt earlier this year when he ruptured his cruciate knee ligament in a moment that left his club boss in tears as it ruined plans of letting Williams and boyhood friend Alli star together while at MK Dons.
Yet Williams showed he has suffered no after-effects with his lively performance at Cardiff City Stadium having revealed the role Real Madrid superstar Bale played in his return.
Bale took time to tweet his support to the Fulham wideman after the injury a year ago, writing: “Gutted for @george_willo35. Wish him all the best on his recovery!! #togetherstronger”
And Williams, 20, said: “It was quite a tough time for me so it was incredible for him to show his support like that. I’d only won a few caps at that point and been in a couple of squads with him, so for him to have done that was brilliant and shows how together we are as a team.
“It was a hard time for me and you do start to worry about how you are going to come back but to know you have people like that backing you is the boost you need.
“And it’s been good to get back with Wales. I missed the end of the last campaign and a few months back I was a little worried about whether I would have a chance, but it’s all behind me now and I’m looking forward to try and make sure I’m out there in France with Gareth.”
It could also mean Williams lining up against old pal Alli whose superb season with Spurs has thrown him into England reckoning, with his performance in the Three Lions’ win over Germany on Saturday meaning he will be one for Wales to watch when the old rivals meet in Lens on June 17.
Williams came through the youth ranks at MK Dons alongside Alli before he was snapped up by Fulham, with Alli helping him get a loan move to the then League One club last season just before the injury.
Dons boss Karl Robinson admitted he was left in tears when the injury stopped him having the chance to pair Alli and Williams before the former’s big-money move to Spurs, describing their partnership as “perfect”.
Williams said of his mate at the time: “I’ve been playing with him since I was a little boy. It’s a bit of a fairy tale to be playing with him again. From our youth team days, we’ll still have a connection. We know what each other is thinking.”
Coleman might want to tap into that come the England clash, though Williams is still eager to nail down his place in the final 23, and says he will try and do it by sticking to his exciting style that has won him praise already in his international career.
Ahead of the game in Kiev, Williams – currently on loan at Gillingham – said: “It was good to be out there last week and try and impress because everyone’s fighting to get into the squad and I’d be lying if I said you don’t think about it.
“It’s going to be tough but that competition is great because we’ve got a great group of 30 players. Everyone’s fighting for a place and these games are a great chance to show what you can do.
“Hopefully I can take my chance and I will keep doing what I do and not change my game. l like to have a bit of confidence on the ball and my first thought is to try and take someone on and hopefully I can use that to my advantage top get to France.
“I enjoy that side of the game, it’s what I’ve always done and what I will keep on doing.
“If it means I can create an opportunity or draw a foul and you’ve got people like Gareth who can score nine times out of ten from a free-kick that is going to help.”