Since Wayne Hennessey ruptured his cruciate ligament in April whilst playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers, the Welsh national team has had a selection problem when it comes to goalkeepers. However, the answer has always been there, tucked away in a small pocket of the North West at Tranmere Rovers.
Capped at every level for Wales from under-17 to under-21, Owain fon Williams is the first-choice goalkeeper for the best defence in League One and one of the best defences in the country. The Whites sit at the top of League One with just six goals conceded from their opening eleven games; fon Williams, an ever-present, has kept six clean sheets.
Last season he kept fifteen in forty games and was unlucky to break a hand during a training session, leaving him out of action for two months. If any goalkeeper is fully deserving of a chance to prove himself for the international team whilst Hennessey is recovering, it has to be the Tranmere man.
Of the three goalkeepers in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia, fon Williams is the only one without a senior cap for his country but he is the only regular starter for his club.
Lewis Price has only been used by his club, Crystal Palace, in the Capitol One Cup whilst the third goalkeeper, Jason Brown, is yet to make an appearance for Aberdeen this season. Both have made appearances for the national side since Coleman took charge of the squad in January.
In previous qualifiers – defeats to Belgium and Serbia – Coleman preferred to use Boaz Myhill despite the 29 year-old being the reserve goalkeeper at West Bromwich Albion; his only appearance so far this season is in a 4-2 win at Yeovil Town in the second round of the Capitol One Cup.
Having been an unused substitute in the summer friendlies with Mexico and Bosnia-Herzegovina and with Myhill now out with an injury, fon Williams is hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to earn his first cap for his country – something which would make him immensely proud.
On the prospect of playing for Wales, he said: “I’m hoping I’m going to play because ever since I was a young boy, growing up in North Wales, I wanted to play for my country. It will be a massive thing for me if I do.”
The 25 year-old has been knocking around the lower leagues for a while now, probably for too long. A rumoured move to Ipswich Town whilst at Stockport County in 2009 never came to fruition and the highest level that fon Williams has played at remains League One.
With such impressive form in recent seasons following excellent work with Tranmere’s goalkeeping coach Dave Timmins, the Crewe academy graduate is ready for the step up. Should Tranmere’s excellent start to the season falter and they fail to gain promotion, management and fans alike will fear losing one of the best goalkeepers that Prenton Park has seen in years.
Fon Williams fondly remembers travelling to national team games as a youngster with his father, travelling south from Penygroes, Gwynedd in North Wales. To play in the national team would be the ultimate honour and, if he were to make his full debut, you would not back against him keeping yet another clean sheet.