MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray has hailed utility man Rhys Williams and says there should be more like him in football.
The Australian international is set to feature for Boro in this evening’s Championship clash against Watford at the Riverside – but where he will play only Mowbray knows.
Williams is the classic footballing ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ who is able to play in a variety of positions – defensive midfield, attacking midfield, centre-half and even right-back being in his repertoire.
For Mowbray, the ability to switch and adapt to new positions is a valuable component of a footballer’s make-up – especially when injuries and suspensions kick in, and players like Williams can step in without too much disruption to the team.
In Manchester United’s Champions League win over Otelul Galati on Wednesday, Wayne Rooney moved back into midfield and, like Williams for Boro, still turned out an impressive display.
And what’s good enough for the current Premier League champions is, in Mowbray’s mind, good enough for Middlesbrough.
He said: “That’s the positive of having players like Rhys Williams, he has the versatility to play anywhere.
“Wayne Rooney played centre midfield and did very well.
“Sir Alex Ferguson was being asked afterwards if they had found the next Paul Scholes, but what about Wayne Rooney the goalscorer who has just been nominated for the Ballon d’Or? You need versatility at any club.
“In my mind, Rhys Williams can be a top-class centre-half as he develops, but for the moment I’m delighted that we have him and his talents and he can play wherever we need him to.
“He’s got the quality to play in defence and midfield.
“Rhys has the attributes to play where we want him to play, he plays right-back for his national team, or centre-back or midfield for us.
“He has awareness and mobility. For the majority of this season he’s been at the back but he can make an impact in midfield. We’ll decide when everybody’s fit where to use him, and where best it is to use Rhys.
“He could be best utilised in midfield but I need to take that decision week by week. He could be the best midfielder in the world, but if he’s doing a job at the back and we’re winning it doesn’t really matter.”
Mowbray, meanwhile, has launched a defence of Williams’ fellow Australian, Scott McDonald, who has struggled to find the net this season.
Criticism has come in the ex-Celtic striker’s direction with some calling for him to be dropped, but Mowbray’s retort is that he picks the team – no one else. He added: “I haven’t heard criticisms. I’m not sure in what media avenue they’re coming from but I don’t spend every night looking at websites, listening to the radio stations or even reading local newspapers, to be fair.
“What I do know is that you can’t keep everybody happy all the time.
“Someone told me Barry Robson was getting some stick somewhere this week, then bangs in two against Doncaster.
“Where’s that lad who put the criticism in now? We all have opinions of who is good and who is bad, yet I’m in the fortunate position of being able to pick the team every week.
“I’m sure there are lots of Boro fans who go each week and go ‘I can’t believe he’s picked him again,’. You’re only right if you win, and you’re always wrong if you lose.
“Bottom line is you’re right to make those decisions, if you don’t get the results you lose your job.
“We see a manager go nearly every week.
“I have no thoughts of any criticism of Scott, the only thing I think about is my team and how we win games.
“He wouldn’t be playing if he wasn’t putting in the effort. I’ve got two players who can come in.
“Their opportunity will come and if Scott allows the frustration of not scoring to get to him and affect his game, then he’ll be sitting beside me on the bench – that’s football.”