With the news breaking on Friday morning that Jonny Williams has left Crystal Palace to join Charlton on an 18 month deal, many Palace fans reacted with little surprise that Williams has decided to move on.
However, there has been an element of sadness among fans about his departure. Williams spent 17 years of his life at Palace and the support and positivity towards him on social media from fans, players and staff at the club has been incredible. I will take a look back at the career and highlights of a true Palace favourite, who has come to be known as ‘Joniesta’.
Jonny Williams joined Palace at the age of 8 and worked his way through the youth setup and academy before making his first team debut on August 16th 2011 against Coventry as Dougie Freedman handed the talented 17-year-old his first senior appearance. Williams went on to feature in 18 matches in all competitions for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season and the intrigue amongst the fans grew as he impressed with his close control, first touch and passing accuracy. This was not the typical Palace youth player we were witnessing and something felt unique about the type of player Williams was during his early playing days for Palace.
Williams’ development continued with the club as he was given further first team opportunities in our promotion campaign of 2012-13 where he made 35 appearances overall throughout the season. It was during this season where the fans really came to understand the more continental style of Williams and, after a few wonderfully controlled performances in midfield, he was bestowed with his now trademark nickname amongst the fans, ‘Joniesta’. Further highlights of this season for Williams included starting all of our play-off games against Brighton and then Watford in the final, being named Young Player of the Year and earning his first senior international cap for Wales against Scotland in March 2013. Such a breakthrough season left the fans eager to see Williams push on further and establish himself at the club.
As Palace moved up in to the Premier League, the first season started brightly for Williams as he started the first 3 games of the campaign under Ian Holloway. However, Williams would only make another 6 Premier League appearances this season for Palace and spent half of the season on loan to Ipswich. What followed in subsequent seasons were a succession of injuries (both long and short term) which would hinder Williams’ playing time. This was the case both at Crystal Palace and whilst on loan at Nottingham Forest, MK Dons, Ipswich and Sunderland over the past 5 years. During this time, Williams made it into the Wales squad for the 2016 European Championships where he starred in a team which produced an incredible run to the semi-finals, an achievement admired by many. He has 2/2been well regarded different national team mangers and has made 17 senior appearances to date for Wales.
Despite the inconsistency of his playing career at this time, Palace fans still had high hopes of Williams returning and breaking through into the first team. Hope of this reignited as Williams had a promising pre-season with the Eagles in 2018 by making a number of appearances, scoring goals and putting in a number of solid performances. However, as the 2018-19 season begun, Williams found himself outside of the squad and his only appearance this season came in the 1-0 EFL cup victory away to Swansea before his recent departure to Charlton.
There has always been hope among Palace fans that Williams would make it and become the star we all wished him to become at the age 17-18. It has been incredibly unfortunate that he didn’t become a leading player for the club on the pitch and we will always be left wondering what could have been. However, the positivity, warmth and genuine engagement with the fans in his time at the club deserves recognition as he has always shown himself to be a true gentleman. Williams has always shown professionalism and class while representing Palace and it is near impossible not to like Joniesta. His recent interview on departing the club sums this up perfectly and represents how special his relationship with the club has become. His move has left the fans emotional and sentimental but we are willing him on to succeed in the future. There is no question that Joniesta will always be a fan’s favourite and he will receive the warmest of welcomes from all involved if he returns to Selhurst Park. Farwell Joniesta!