After two spells as a popular player and club captain at Mansfield Town, veteran winger Ryan Williams is enjoying the challenge of being back in town as player-coach at ambitious NCEL Division One side AFC Mansfield.
It is a first step into coaching for Sutton-born Williams (36) alongside the manager he began the season with, Rudy Funk at Scarborough Athletic, and he believes the Bulls, with two successive promotions behind them, can go higher.
“It wasn’t really a big decision. Obviously I have worked with Rudy before and I know what he’s about,” said Williams.
“I also know Steve (Hymas), Andy (Saunders) and Darren (Bland) from my time at Mansfield and I know what type of people they are.
“So once I got the chance to come here long term it was something I couldn’t turn down. It’s something I want to be part of.
“I spoke to the people at the club about what they are trying to do and their ambition is exciting. They have a hell of chance with the people they have there.
“I was asked to come here as a player but also to help out with the coaching side and I am grateful for the opportunity.
“Once I have stopped playing I want to stay involved as I would miss it too much. Coaching and management is something that really appeals to me in the future.
“I can also continue as a part-time footballer which I still enjoy. I want to keep on playing for as long as I can and I think I still have quite a few years left in me yet. I will play on until my legs say no. At the minute I am looking after myself and feeling good.”
Williams remains based in Hull where is home and day job are.
“I am still living in Hull, but it only takes me an hour and a quarter to get to Mansfield and I have been used to travelling most of my life,” he said.
“I am a child care officer for children with social and emotional needs who can’t be in mainstream school. It’s something new for me and really enjoyable.”
After starting his career with the Stags, Williams went on to play for a host of clubs including Tranmere, Chesterfield, Hull and Bristol Rovers before David Holdsworth brought him back to Mansfield in 2009. However, he was shown the door in a clear-out by Duncan Russell, who had taken over from Holdsworth, in January 2011 and ended up at Gainsborough Trinity.
“Coming back to Mansfield was a dream come true for me,” he said. “And being made club captain is something I am very proud of as not many players become captain of their hometown club.
“It’s a shame it ended too soon. I will never slag anyone off in football, I am not that kind of person, but I would have loved to have stayed longer, especially as they went to Wembley a couple of months later. The decision was out of my hands and it’s all forgotten now.
“I always look for Mansfield’s results as I do for all my old clubs.
“I think they have made a great appointment in Adam Murray. He is a fantastic lad who knows his stuff. I think with him in charge the club can go forward.”
Although only 5ft 5ins, Williams has also showed his prowess in the boxing ring.
“Boxing is my second love behind football and I am still enjoying boxing training which is great for your fitness,” he said.
“But it is difficult to have amateur fights when you are a footballer. I have only had one, which I won on points, but, aside of insurance, it is a big commitment as it takes a good eight to nine weeks preparation. I did it at the end of a season so I didn’t get a break.
“Maybe I won’t get to have another. I have promised the wife and parents I won’t do it again as they were a nervous wreck. They were just pleased I came out of it unscathed.”
Williams made a scoring debut in AFC Mansfield’s dramatic 3-3 draw against neighbours Shirebrook Town last Saturday when they pulled an unlikely draw out of the jaws of defeat.
He said: “I said afterwards that I have played a lot of games but that one was probably the most bizarre. To be 3-0 down with 10 men with about 20 minutes to go and still get a draw was surreal.
“Credit to the lads, its shows the character within the camp and it could be a platform we can build on as sometimes things like that can kick you on in a season.”