Yeovil Town 4 Hartlepool 0 – Saturday 13th March 2010

Gavin Williams will without doubt be one of the most fondly remembered players in Yeovil’s history by anyone who saw him. He was a special player, able to turn a game with a moment of magic, but also with an element of mischief which no doubt wound up many opposition players and fans. Whatever was happening on the pitch, he was involved. He could create goals, score goals, and often trod a very fine line with some of his tackling, which would see him sent off more than once in his Yeovil career. Every game without fail he would place the ball outside the quadrant at a corner to get the opposition fans jeering at him. He was always sure to do the Cardiff City ‘Ayatollah’ celebration if he scored against another Welsh club, which Swansea fans in particular were not huge fans of. If the question was asked, ‘who plays the most practical jokes at Yeovil?’, the answer would always be Gavin Williams.

Gavin arrived at the end of the 2001/02 season, just in time to be presented before the FA Trophy Final at Villa Park. He joined a team that it had taken Gary Johnson most of the season to put together, but by the time he arrived the First XI more or less picked itself. The only areas for improvement were an attacking midfield player, as occasionally Gary Johnson’s team had struggled to break down defensive opponents, and a first choice striker to partner Adam Stansfield. These arrived in the shape of Williams and Demba, the only additions to the squad in the quiet summer of 2002, a period of unprecedented stability in the Yeovil squad. He took the No. 20 shirt, as the numbers 1-11 would be taken by those who started in the Trophy Final. From then on, the No. 20 at Yeovil would be associated with Williams the same way that the No. 14 was with Thierry Henry at Arsenal.

What made his arrival all the sweeter was that we had bought him at a steal of £22,500 from rivals Hereford, who swore they would never let the same thing happen again after we took McIndoe from them for a similar amount in 2001. It must have really hurt them to see two of their former players romp to promotion with their rivals in one of the best teams the Conference has ever seen, so that’s unfortunate.

Williams was a focal point of the team in 2002/03 playing in an advanced midfield role, scoring 6 goals with an additional 9 assists. Most of his goals that season were fairly spectacular, including arguably the goal of the season at home to Doncaster. Following promotion, he became the outstanding player in the 2003/04 season, and also leading scorer despite playing mostly in midfield with 13 goals and 9 assists.

If there was one potential problem with having Gavin Williams in your team, he did create a bit of a selection headache. Without the greatest pace, he was not a traditional front man, and he also wasn’t really a winger. He was an attacking midfielder, who would occasionally go wandering and leave space behind him for a counter-attack. It was clear from team selections at the beginning of the 2002/03 season that Gary Johnson wasn’t really sure where to play him at first, as he had been a striker at Hereford. In the first game, he was played up front with Adam Stansfield, with Demba left on the bench. Following Stansfield’s injury, he was played up front with Demba. From the third game onwards, Johnson changed the formation from 4-4-2 to the 3-4-1-2 that would be used most of the season, with Williams playing in the hole behind the front two. This gave him the freedom to play wherever he wanted without having to worry about defensive duties. This did raise the problem of where to play Anthony Tonkin, who as a specialist left back thrived in a 4-4-2 but was very uncomfortable on the left of a back three. This was resolved unintentionally, when he was poached by Stockport after only nine games of the season. This formation would last most of the season, and result in Yeovil scoring 100 goals as they won the Conference.

Unfortunately, playing three at the back didn’t really work in League Two. After an up and down start, reverting to a back four gave much more solidity and shape to the team after the introduction of Ronnie Bull on loan as a specialist left back, after which Colin Miles would play much of the season there as Yeovil reverted to a 4-4-2.

The problem arose again though, of where to play Gavin Williams, as there was one less place available in midfield. Following the departure of McIndoe over the summer, Williams played most of the 2003/04 season on the left, which allowed him to cut inside as he did to spectacular effect with his solo goal against Kidderminster. He also occasionally played as a withdrawn striker in a 4-5-1, most notably in the FA Cup game against Liverpool where he came closest of any Yeovil player to scoring that day, drawing a smart save from Jerzy Dudek from a long range shot.

The role Gavin often played for Yeovil would almost certainly be well suited to the modern game, given how many teams now play with only one out and out striker, with three attacking midfielders behind. The role he played was similar to the one Mason Mount or Jack Grealish currently do for England. In a way Gary Johnson was well ahead of his time, as although he took a man out of defence in order to maintain two up front, the switch from two attacking midfielders to three was arguably what allowed Yeovil to score so many goals in 2002/03 and unlock defences that they had occasionally struggled to get through the previous season, with almost exactly the same team. It was Gavin Williams that was the significant difference between coming third and winning the Conference by 17 points.

After a deserved career in the Championship including time at West Ham, Ipswich and Bristol City, he returned to Yeovil for the first of three additional spells in March 2010. The first of these was this game, at home to Hartlepool, which Yeovil won 4-0. In his time on the pitch, Gavin scored one spectacular free kick, created another goal by lobbing the keeper, and then got sent off for a dangerous challenge, all before the hour mark. In his first game back. If there was ever a game that encapsulated Gavin Williams, it was this one. He was often where the action was, being sent off three times in his Yeovil career and probably being substituted on more than one occasion as he often rode that very fine line. The last action of his first spell with Yeovil was to get sent off for a very bad challenge on the keeper in a dismal 3-1 defeat at Lincoln. By this point, his move to West Ham was already on the cards and it was only a matter of time although it was a shame that his last action was to get sent off.

In that 2009/10 spell under Terry Skiverton, Gavin scored five goals and five assists from eight games. He returned for another loan spell in 2010/11, scoring one goal and four assists from 12 games. He also scored the winner against Yeovil that same season while on loan at Bristol Rovers, which he did not celebrate. 2010/11 also saw Yeovil field an attacking partnership of Williams, Williams and Williams (Sam, Andy and Gavin), although unfortunately due to injury they were rarely all on the pitch at the same time.

At the start of the 2011/12 season, Gavin re-signed permanently and would finally take the N0. 10 shirt, initially under Terry Skiverton before being reunited with his old gaffer when Gary Johnson returned to the club in January 2012, steering the Glovers to a League One Playoff final win. In his fourth and final spell, Gavin played 54 games, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists. A lot of these appearances were from the substitute’s bench, as he was unfortunately hampered by injury later in his career, particularly in the promotion season. He was a substitute in the Playoff Final, but did not get on the pitch.

His last goal for the club would be an unforgettable one though, as he scored twice in a 4-1 win at home to Oldham, which will feature in a future Green and White Goals video. The second of these was a spectacular solo run and 30-yard shot that was arguably his best for the club – and there were a lot of great ones to choose from.


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