So what do we know about Daniel Williams?
Well, he is a 24 year old American international (12 caps, no goals) who plays either as a holding midfielder or as a centre back. This is an area of obvious weakness in the current squad. At Southampton Adkins liked to base his flowing, passing football around two solid holding players, normally Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork. Looking at the Reading squad at the moment, the only players who could potentially fill that role at the moment are Daniel Carrico and Mikele Leigertwood, both of whom it’s fair to say struggled a bit last year.
He’s arrived from Hoffenheim, a side who narrowly avoided relegation from the Bundesliga via a playoff win against Kaiserslautern. Not that auspicious, especially when you realise that he wasn’t even playing in the team at that point. Depending what you read he was either dropped for being rubbish or struggling with injury. Mind you, how often does one of those reasons lead to the other? Without him in the side Hoffenheim improved their form and stayed up by the skin of their teeth. Whether those two facts are directly related I can’t say with any authority but Ryan Rosenblatt was fairly blunt about his form on this site!
Those of you who prefer to look at stats rather than others’ opinions when it comes to new players may be heartened by some of these. Williams had a pass success rate of over 85% last season which certainly suggests he will fit in with Adkins’ style of play and averaging 2.5 interceptions would also indicate that he is well suited to take the holding player role. The whole point of that position is to win the ball and start counter attacks and those numbers give room for some optimism that he can do that.
More alarming though is his disciplinary record. Williams clocked up an impressive 8 bookings in only 21 games last year. Playing in the position he does he is clearly more susceptible to collecting yellow cards but that record does suggest an over exuberance, something he will definitely have to sort out if he is to succeed at Reading.
One man who does seem to have a lot of faith in him though is Jurgen Klinsmann who appears to have made Williams a fairly integral part of his USA side. The German legend described him as a player of "huge potential" and followed that up by giving him his first cap and starting him in several World Cup qualifiers as well as their friendly win over Italy.
Reading between the lines of some of the reports from Germany and the USA it does seem unfair to judge him purely by Hoffenheim’s failure. One blog compared them with QPR; bank rolled by a multi-millionaire and full of massive egos. Using that comparison Daniel Williams seemed to be a bit like Shaun Derry, an honest pro who might be a little limited but plays hard for a doomed team.
That may ring a few alarm bells for fans but for bought for a reported figure of £1.6m, he’s cost less than Chris Gunter did so even if he is a total flop then we’ve not lost out too much.
Despite his nationality he is a player who came through the German youth setup at Freiburg and is one of the increasing number of German/American footballers. As such it’s probably fair to view him in footballing terms as a product of the new German movement that has been responsible for so many great players in recent years. Until 2011 he’d never even set foot on American soil and when he talks about "moving the ball quickly" it’s clear that when it comes to football he has a very German mentality. This should enable him to fit in very quickly at Reading and although at 24 he probably hasn’t got that much more developing to do, I’m cautiously optimistic that he’ll be able to do a job in the midfield.
Mind you, all this irrelevant, everyone knows that Reading only got him because they have always needed to have a Williams in the side whether it's Adrian, Martyn or, God forbid, Marcus!