City confirm former Forest caretaker and Swansea assistant as new U18s coach ahead of Youth Cup tie
PUBLISHED: 17:30 21 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:48 21 January 2019
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Norwich City have confirmed former Derby and Coventry defender Paul Williams as the club’s new under-18 head coach ahead of tomorrow night’s FA Youth Cup game at Preston.
The 47-year-old has been named as successor to David Wright, whose promotion as permanent U23s boss was confirmed last month.
Williams has been in charge of City’s U18s in recent weeks and his appointment has been confirmed ahead of Tuesday’s Youth Cup fourth round tie (7.45pm), when victory over Preston at Deepdale would earn a home tie against the U18s of League Two side Bury.
He has held a number of first-team roles in recent years, including as part of the coaching staff at Birmingham City for much of last season and assistant manager at Swansea City during 2016-17, during Bob Bradley’s brief stint in charge and then as Paul Clement steered the Swans to safety.
“I had a chat with (academy manager) Steve Weaver quite a while ago, we’d clashed heads when I was at Southampton and he was at Wolves and have got on ever since,” Williams explained.
“I’ve had conversations with him a few times so when this opportunity came up it didn’t take much to accept the decision and get on with things.
“Once I’ve got here I could see that all the work is in place to make this a very successful academy and the chance to be a part of that wasn’t something I could turn down.”
Williams spent the vast majority of his playing career in the top two tiers of English football, spanning from 1989 to 2005, also playing for Stoke and Southampton.
The former Coventry player-of-the-season and England Under-21 international then began his coaching career in the youth ranks at Wolves in 2006, before stepping into U18s coaching at Southampton.
Williams spent almost six years with the south coast club’s well respected category one academy, before stepping into a first-team role alongside Lee Carsley at Brentford in 2015-16.
Following Carsley’s dismissal he joined Dougie Freedman’s coaching staff at fellow Championship club Nottingham Forest, where he ended up having a spell as caretaker manager.
Freedman was sacked in March 2016 and Williams managed to pick up two wins and four draws from 10 games as Forest finished the season unbeaten in five matches to finish in 16th place.
He didn’t get the gig full-time but a role with the England U20s soon followed as assistant coach, before going on to Swansea and Birmingham, moving on when Steve Cotterill was sacked in March of last year.
He had been operating as an opposition scout for West Brom boss Darren Moore this season but takes on a Canaries U18 squad heading up to Lancashire in the morning for their big Youth Cup game, having won 3-2 at Port Vale in round three.
“They’re not a category one club, so their intentions are going to be even higher, in terms of wanting to beat a category one academy,” Williams continued ahead of the battle with Preston.
“Then the other side is that our lads might get complacent and think ‘this isn’t a category one game, so we just need to turn up’.
“So for me, progress will be made with players actually going and performing, not on academy pitches, but to an away stadium and show they can handle that environment.
“The fact that we’ve got a really good team and hopefully give a really good account of ourselves, and hopefully the result will be in our favour.”
City’s U18s have endured a tough start to the campaign, as several of their eligible players have been regulars at U23 level.
Losing the first eight matches of their U18 Premier League South campaign leaves the young Canaries bottom of the league, but a 2-1 home win over Reading earlier this month has boosted chances of moving up the table.
“I think there’s everything in terms of a mixture of technical ability and defenders who want to defend,” the youngsters’ new coach said of the current U18 squad.
“So I think the dynamic of the group is really good, it’s just whether they turn up on the day, which the coach can’t really effect. It’s over to the players now to perform and make sure they do themselves justice.”
He added: “In terms of the first round, the lads were looking forward to the game, but we’ll travel up in the morning so we’ll be prepared and wanting to progress in the cup.
“Again the objective is that long-term they can go and perform at away stadiums and win games.
“So in terms of winning the game, I think preparation, the long journey, and making sure the lads can have that adversity and have that in their locker, can sit on the bus for five hours and still get off and perform.
“That’s the bigger benchmark and measure of the players individually, with how they cope with things.”