Football: Williams earns high praise

THE GATHERING of leading managers who watched the non-League striker Eifion Williams in the bitter cold and snow at Wrexham were yesterday given a word of advice from the former Wales and Everton captain Kevin Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe made his debut on his country's coaching staff for the B team's 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland B at Wrexham on Tuesday night when the pounds 100,000-rated Williams scored the winner with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. Ratcliffe, with 56 caps and a glittering array of trophies from Everton's glory days, knows a thing or two about strikers. During his playing days he was a team-mate of Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Andy Gray and Graeme Sharp.

And Ratcliffe, now managing third division Chester, believes that 23- year-old Williams can make it to the top. Ratcliffe said: "There's no doubt in my mind that the lad can succeed at a much higher level and score goals wherever he plays."

The former Bangor sports and recreation student currently plays for the League of Wales champions, Barry Town, but, after his step up in class to win his first B cap, his name must be on several Football League clubs' wanted lists. Last season he scored 57 goals for Barry - this term he already has 37 - and has experienced European football in the Champions' League against Dynamo Kiev.

Ratcliffe said: "The way he took his goal was first class, a tremendous instinctive strike. And from what we saw out on the pitch from him and the way he has been in training with us all week, he has not looked out of place. I believe he could make it in the league."

Williams was rejected by Wolverhampton Wanderers after two years on their books and then went to college while playing part-time for Caernarfon Town. He moved to Barry for pounds 25,000, a League of Wales record.

The new Port Vale manager, Brian Horton, was among a host of managers and scouts at the game, alongside Blackpool's Nigel Worthington and Macclesfield's Sammy McIlroy.

Williams has not had much luck so far this term trying to further his career, after trials at Cardiff, Nottingham Forest and Portsmouth. He went to Forest for a trial, scored twice, and a few weeks later Dave Bassett got the sack and a possible move fell apart. He also went to Portsmouth, played in a game there, and then found the club had been put into liquidation. That possible move collapsed, too. "Now I have spent the week training with the Wales lads and playing with people who are in the Premier League or top Nationwide league sides and enjoyed every minute," Williams said. "You see what standards you have to achieve to get on in the game, and I just hope things happen for me."

John Oster is another player who hopes to benefit from the Wales victory. The 20-year-old winger, who has failed to figure in Everton's plans this season, was recalled to international duty last night after being sent off in successive Under-21 internationals last year. "I feel I have learned my lesson as far as those red cards are concerned," he said. "I appreciate being brought back in for a B game, I realise that I am still in the back of someone's mind. I just hope I have got myself back in the frame [at Everton]."