UPDATE: Almost a year after suffering World Cup heartbreak, Rhys Williams is preparing to meet Australia’s new coach for the first time following his call-up to the Socceroos squad for friendlies against New Zealand and Serbia next month.
The Middlesbrough defender has emerged from a horror injury spell, which dashed his hopes of playing in South Africa last year, and is now determined to make a positive impression on Socceroos boss Holger Osieck.
“I’m ready mentally and physically and I’m ready to show the manager I want a place in the team. I don’t just want to be a bit-part player,” Williams told The West Australian yesterday.
His last involvement with the Socceroos ended painfully in Johannesburg in June last year when a groin injury forced him out of Australia’s World Cup camp just days before the tournament kicked off.
Since then, Osieck has replaced Pim Verbeek and Williams had to wait until March to finally return to action for Middlesbrough.
He starred in the latter part of the season as Middlesbrough recovered from the threat of relegation from the English Championship to finish 12th in the 24-team competition.
His form also led to speculation Premier League club Bolton Wanderers were interested in him.
“I found out about that when everyone else did,” Williams said of the reports.
“But if any Premier League club showed interest you’d be stupid not to think about it.
“I’m 22 and I want to take the next step as every footballer wants to. It was nice to think people might be looking at me.”
A number of big-name players have been left out of the Socceroos squad for the matches against the Kiwis in Adelaide on June 5 and Serbia in Melbourne two days later, including Mark Schwarzer, Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell.
Osieck said their absence was due to concerns over workload and injuries. Former Perth Glory striker Nikita Rukavytsya will miss to have surgery on a groin problem.
Skipper Lucas Neill, Luke Wilkshire, Brett Holman and Brett Emerton, who played a key role in Blackburn staying in the Premier League, have all been included in the 23-man squad.
Australia: Alex Brosque, Nathan Coe, Brett Emerton, Adam Federici, Brett Holman, Mile Jedinak, Josh Kennedy, Neil Kilkenny, Robbie Kruse, Mitchell Langerak, Jon McKain, Matt McKay, Mark Milligan, Lucas Neill, Sasa Ognenovski, Matthew Spiranovic, Archie Thompson, James Troisi, Carl Valeri, Dario Vidosic, Rhys Williams, Luke Wilkshire, Michael Zullo.