Harold Williams was a Welsh international footballer, who made 228 appearances for Leeds United, playing a pivotal part in John Charles’ rise into a prolific goalscorer.
Born on the 17th June 1924 in Briton Ferry, Williams showed promise as a young boy, but saw his chances of progression halted by Swansea Town, who rejected him after several trials.
Not giving up on his dream of playing professional football, he made guest appearances for both Belfast Celtic and Cliftonville during the Second World War, where he also served in the Royal Navy.
As an 18 year-old serving with a fleet in the Atlantic, Williams fought a constant life and death battle. Describing his time in the war to the Yorkshire Evening Post, he said “I spent three years at sea going back and forth from Newfoundland, it was tough. We were involved in U-boat warfare. We blew one out of the water and it came up ten yards away. It was frightening but I survived”
Upon being released from the Navy in 1946, Williams was snapped up by Newport County, and over the next couple of seasons, would build up a reputation as a creative and talented player, with an abundance of pace.
Williams first came to the attention of Leeds United in 1949, when Major Frank Buckley’s side found themselves on the end of a surprise 3-1 defeat at Elland Road.
After completing a milkround in the early hours, Williams drove up to Leeds for the FA Cup tie, where he would find himself up against a formidable defence. “The player I was up against was Jimmy Milburn. He was a hard man but he wasn’t the fastest and I was too quick for him” Williams remembered.
As the summer approached, and unable to forget the young player’s impact in their FA Cup defeat, Buckley splashed out a sizeable fee for the time, £12,000, to bring Williams to the Whites.
Earning £12 a week, Williams would make his Leeds United debut in a 1-1 draw against Queens Park Rangers on the 20th August 1949.
Able to switch wings with ease, the Welsh international linked up perfectly with Len Browning and John Charles, providing one pinpoint cross after another. Talking about his partnership with the latter, Williams said “He became one of the best players in the world and I couldn’t stop putting the ball on his head.”
Despite the club being firmly planted in the Second Division at the time, the side was full of internationals, and would gain respect for their style of football. During the 1949/50 season, the Whites went further in the FA Cup than any Leeds United team previously, only to be stopped in the sixth round by Arsenal, who would go on to win the competition that year.
Heartbreak would strike in November 1952, when Williams would suffer a broken leg during a trip to Everton’s Goodison Park.
Out for nine months, the winger returned back in time for the 1953/54 season, and would set about showing that he hadn’t lost any of his ability. Leeds produced an avalanche of goals, with Williams helping Charles set the goalscoring record of 42 goals in a single season.
The following season Leeds would go one step further and secure the promotion that they had so greatly craved during his time at the club. Scoring twice in nineteen games for the Whites, it was the beginning of the end for Williams, as he would be replaced by George Meek and Jackie Overfield as the established wingers.
After 8 years, 228 appearances, and 35 goals for Leeds United; Williams returned to Newport County in March 1957. He would later go on to join Bradford Park Avenue before bringing a close to his career.
Although his time in football drew to a close, Williams never stopped following the Whites, as he continued to attend games at Elland Road with his close friends John Charles and Jimmy Dunn.
With such an affinity for the area, the former winger spent the rest of his life in Yorkshire, becoming a landlord at The Railway Inn in Beeston, before moving onto The Griffin Inn in the small village of Gildersome.
Passing away in 2014 at the age of 90, Williams was the oldest surviving Welsh international, having won 4 caps for The Dragons against Northern Ireland (twice), Switzerland and Scotland.