Barnsley: George Williams relishing Championship challenge

George Williams
George Williams
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Barnsley young gun George Williams cannot wait to play in the Championship next season.

The Reds remarkable promotion back to the English second tier has left the South Yorkshire club on cloud nine.

And next year the club’s League One Play-off winning squad have the chance to prove themselves against former Premier League sides Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

Williams, for one, can’t wait for the challenge.

“The opportunity to play in the Championship will be absolutely incredible so hopefully we can get everything sorted out,” said Williams, who was a mainstay of the successful team last season.

The ambitious 23-year-old full-back played 38 times for the Reds and also netted his first goal for the club.

“It’s been a long journey for myself and we’ve come together as a team brilliantly this back half of the season.

“We’ve got a great team spirit and it’s been an absolutely incredible journey.”

The Reds were bottom of the table at the end of November and there were calls from some supporters for manager Lee Johnson’s head.

But the club stuck with Johnson and got them out of trouble – and then caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom guided the club to victory in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final.

And then double Wembley success followed when the Reds beat Millwall 3-1 in the League One Play-off final.

An early goal from Manchester United loan striker Ashley Fletcher settled any nerves according to Williams – and then the Reds eventually ran out comfortable winners.

“It definitely settled the nerves, scoring early, a bit and deflated them a little bit, so I think that was key,” reflected Williams.

“I just can’t wait for next season now. To be honest if I’m playing next season then I’ll play anywhere, stick me up front and I’ll play there.”

And Williams wants Heckingbottom to land the manager’s job on a permanent basis after the success he enjoyed last season.

“Everyone loves Hecky, the fans, the players,” said Williams. “Everyone loves him.

“For me personally he’s been brilliant. He’s really encouraging and really supportive and lets me play my game. I hope he gets the job.”

Meanwhile, the Reds have been linked with a move for Walsall midfielder Sam Mantom.

The 24-year-old is out of contract this summer, has been offered a two-year deal to extend his current deal at the Bank’s Stadium.

Mantom bagged nine goals for the Saddlers last season and could be a replacement for former loan midfielder Josh Brownhill, who has teamed up with Johnson at Bristol City.