Former Sheffield Wednesday star Chris Bart-Williams talks about his time with the Owls and his love for wine gums
One man who'll be keeping an eye on events at Nottingham tomorrow will be former Sheffield Wednesday and Forest star Chris Bart-Williams.
Bart-Williams, who played for both sides in a playing career spanning 15 years, now lives in America where he runs his own soccer academy in Florida and North Carolina.
But despite being several thousand miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, the ‘Bartman’ will be closely following the game between his two former sides at the City Ground.
“I follow all the teams I played for primarily – when they play I keep an eye out for all their results,” says Bart-Williams, who also had spells with Charlton Athletic and Ipswich Town.
The former midfielder was only 16 when he joined the club for £275,000 from Leyton Orient in 1991 and went on to become a popular figure during his four years with the Owls.
Bart-Williams clocked up more than 120 appearances and starred in one of the finest sides to have graced Hillsborough.
He played alongside the likes of Chris Waddle, David Hirst and Des Walker during a golden era for the club which saw the Owls finish third in the old Division One and get to the League Cup and FA finals in 1993.
“We had some world class players,” says Bart-Williams, who has has spoken to the Star from his base in Miami. “It was great being around those type of players on a daily basis.
“We got to two finals (against Arsenal) and it’s a shame we couldn’t win one of them. It was certainly strange playing the same club in both finals. If we’d have played a different club in one of the finals I’d liked to think we’d have won one of them.”
And Bart-Williams says the education and experience he had at Hillsborough in the early 90s is something he still talks about ‘to this day’ and pays tribute to former boss Trevor Francis and his coaching staff for helping to shape his career.
“Trevor was great, he really was,” he said. “He knew how to handle me because of his own experience (as a teenager at Birmingham) and so did the coaching staff.
“Being a teenager I wanted to play every minute of every game and couldn’t understand it when I was taken off or didn’t play. It was a good way to be educated in being myself. I always believed I should have played but the coaching staff did a great job.”
Bart-Williams left Wednesday in the summer of 1995 to join tomorrow’s opponents – where he later became club captain in a spell spanning seven years on Trentside.
His playing days ended in 2006 and he’s been Stateside for more than a decade where he runs CBW Soccer Elite, which helps youngsters get identified by US college soccer programmes.
“The demand for football over here is extraordinary,” said Bart-Williams. “Over the past 10 years the growth of youth soccer has been massive.”
The academy helps youngsters from not only the US but also up-and-coming talent from across Europe who are trying to make their way in the game.
“I’ve got a couple of players here in Miami I think have true potential to go back and play in Europe,” he said. “It would be interesting to see how they would do if they were at the Wednesday or Forest academies.”
Bart-Williams hasn't been back to Sheffield ‘for some time’ but is hoping to visit the UK in the ‘next couple of years’ – maybe as early as next summer.
“I’m going to make sure I make regular visits – I miss the humour and I miss wine gums, they’re just not the same over here,” he says.
But having played more than 100 games for Wednesday and over 200 at Forest, it’s fair to say Bart-Williams has mixed emotions when it comes to tomorrow’s clash at the City Ground and wasn’t drawn on who he wanted to win.
As for Wednesday, he’s impressed with how they have fared this season and says ‘they’ve just got to hang in there’ when asked about their play-off chances.