Danny Williams, One-on-One: On USMNT frustrations and joining the club that broke his heart
In terms of club football, it must seem strange that one of the greatest days in Huddersfield Town’s history was also one of lowest points?
It was one of the worst days of my life. For a few days I felt really terrible. I have played at Wembley twice and lost on both occasions. The first time was an FA Cup semifinal against Arsenal when we were beaten in extra time and then we lost on penalties to Huddersfield. So, I don’t have too many good memories when it comes to Wembley.
I was in deep shock afterwards. It took me 10 days to get over it. For the first five to seven days, I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I replayed it all in my mind.
What happened in the playoff final was heartbreaking. You feel as though your dreams have been crushed. You have to watch them lifting the trophy and celebrating wildly when all you feel is desolation. All your family are there and your friends, too, and they are desperate for you to win. It was a sickening feeling. But even then, I felt that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and so I am grateful with the way things turned out for me personally and now I am happy I am at Huddersfield Town.
How long did it take to get over the playoff final?
I was in deep shock afterwards. It took me 10 days to get over it. For the first five to seven days, I didn’t want to speak to anybody. I replayed it all in my mind. Your friends and family try to lift you up which was very kind but it was wasted on me. After such a huge disappointment, my way of coming to terms with it was to internalize things. I had to apologize to the people closest to me. They only wanted the best for me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to speak because I was so gutted.
I decided to go on vacation and then slowly but surely, I came round. You gradually stop thinking too much about football and you enjoy laying on the beach and the sunshine and you start to realize life isn’t too bad. It was more than getting over losing a football match. It was far bigger because the stakes were so high.
People called me a snake and a traitor and nasty stuff like that because I moved to the club that beat us in the playoff final, but ultimately that’s business. I want to play against to the best players in the world.
But, still, you know you will get another chance. Little by little on holiday I got better. People would say, ‘Danny, I saw you crying at Wembley, how are you now?’ but all I could say was that I didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to forget about it and look to the future. Thankfully Huddersfield came in for me and I was able to challenge myself at the highest level.
Did it take much persuading for you to leave Reading for Huddersfield after they’d shattered your Premier League dreams?
It was an easy decision to make. The reason I moved to Huddersfield was, to be quite honest, very simple. I wanted to play Premier League football. I wanted to challenge myself at the highest level. Every professional footballer dreams about playing in one of the top five leagues in Europe and I was no different when I was growing up when it comes to soccer. Everyone that knows me knows that I am competitive and ambitious.
I gave my all when I was a Reading. I never gave less than 100 percent in terms of effort and commitment. It was the right time to move. I spent four years at Reading. People called me a snake and a traitor and nasty stuff like that because I moved to the club that beat us in the playoff final, but ultimately that’s business. I want to play against to the best players in the world. That’s no disrespect to the Championship because that’s a high level as well but everyone in football dreams about playing against Man United, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.
What’s life like in the North of England?
It seems to rain a lot, but I love it. I live in Manchester. At the beginning, it was a bit different because you don’t know your way around, which was strange because when I was down south I’d lived in London for four years and knew the place really well. Northerners are super friendly and I have made loads of friends already. I really like it. The traffic is nowhere near as bad as London and there are lots of places to go. I have a nice, daily routine and I feel settled.
The north of England is not too different to where I was brought up in Karlsruhe, south-west Germany. In fact, Huddersfield and Manchester are a lot more similar to that part of Germany than they are London. That is because, where I am from, I was always taught to get up early and work hard. I am from a normal working-class family. My dad worked at a McDonald’s restaurant when he first came over to Europe from America. There is a lot more hustle and bustle and stress in London, because it is a world city and there are 11 or 12 million people there.
What’s it like to have fellow German-American David Wagner as your manager?
He is a competitor and that’s a trait I really respect. He is infectiously enthusiastic, but he’s a very structured coach; he gives us a game-plan before every match to fulfill. Sometimes it works better than other occasions. But he is a really good motivator and you can tell from the way he celebrates that he is really close to the fans. They love him because he has accomplished something really special.
I had heard of him because I’m from Germany, but the English boys didn’t know anything about him when he arrived in England. The fans had not even heard of his name before he came to Huddersfield. That is why the club owner [Dean Hoyle] deserves a lot of credit. He went for something different and the reward was extraordinary. He has done a great job so far and long may it continue.
He was at Hoffenheim. We spoke because I came up against his team when I was at Reading and he was managing Huddersfield. We always chatted after games. We’ve both got German-American citizenship so we had plenty in common and so we always chatted. We spoke after the Wembley game and he was very nice because he knew I was devastated. I didn’t know him, but I knew of him.
How are you enjoying life under the global spotlight in the Premier League?
The feeling for us around that Man U game [which Huddersfield won, 2-1] was unbelievable. No one expected us to win that match. They were undefeated when they came to Huddersfield but football everything is possible. When you compare our teams, we have the lowest budget.
It was a privilege to be involved in that game. We are in the Premier League on merit. I would not say we are sitting comfortably but we are just below mid-table and we are doing everything we can to remain there. Hopefully we will not be one-season wonders.