FORMER State team coach Eric Williams, who has just returned to Australia after 15 years coaching in South-East Asia, will be a special guest at the Football Hall of Fame WA’s 21st birthday celebrations at Dorrien Gardens on December 12.
The celebrations will include the 50th anniversary of the State team’s historic game against Manchester United, the 50th anniversary of WA’s first venture into Asia to play in the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia – and the 21st anniversary of WA’s famous victory over a very strong Indonesian national side in 1996.
Williams was the coach of the State team that faced Indonesia. “I have fond memories of that game – and of that period,” said Williams, who led WA for a successful four-year period from 1994.
“We had a terrific side that took on a very good Indonesian team and, of course, the game was televised live back to Indonesia so our players got wonderful exposure.
“I particularly remember that Robbie Zabica was a real hero for us in goal. He made some fine saves, particularly in the penalty shoot-out after the contest had been deadlocked at 2-2 after 90 minutes.
“Robbie stood tall in the shoot-out and defied the Indonesians, enabling us to win 3-1 on penalties.”
The Indonesian national team was one of the power-houses of South-East Asia at the time, boasted several players who had experience of playing at a high level in Europe and they had beaten top Italian side Sampdoria the week before.
Williams also guided WA to wins over top English sides Nottingham Forest and West Ham in 1995 and, in 1994, a 1-1 draw with the Australian Olyroos and a narrow 2-1 loss to another English outfit, Sheffield United. He also guided the State team in a successful tour of Surabaya.
In 18 games in charge of the State team, Williams was successful in nine, drew three and lost six.
He had also been a successful club coach with North Perth Croatia, Spearwood Dalmatinac and Floreat Athena – and, in acknowledgement of his expertise, he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame WA’s Hall of Recognition in 2005.
Eric, who was born in the UK with strong Welsh connections, was an England under-18 amateur international and played with Notts County and QPR as a youngster before heading for Australia. He played in the NSL with Newcastle and had a spell in Hong Kong before joining Dalmatinacs and winning two league championships.
One of his last playing assignments was representing the Hall of Fame in an Ashes challenge match against the visiting English media in 2006.
This year’s Ashes clash between WA and the English media will be held at Dorrien Gardens on December 12 as a curtain-raiser to the Hall of Fame’s 21st birthday function.
“I don’t think I’ll be pulling on the boots this time round,” said Williams who is now 62.
His 15-year spell as a coach in Asia brought him club championship triumphs in Myanmar with Yangon United plus success in the Maldives and Indonesia. He also had a brief spell in Malaysia with Super League side Malacca United.
The Myanmar Times newspaper described Williams as a very influential figure in the country’s fledgling national league, which was formed in 2009.
The article stated: “His work and accomplishments with both the club’s first team as well as players that have advanced from the club’s youth academy makes him arguably the most important positive influence on the standard of Myanmar football over the past five years.”
Eric, in turn, has been impressed with the improving standard in South-East Asia.
He said: “I am not surprised that Asian teams have proved a tricky handful for Australian teams at youth and senior level. They are quick and skilful and there are a lot of good young players coming through.”
Williams has always been an advocate of giving young players opportunities and he hopes to establish a set-up in WA that will advance the skills and knowledge of youngsters.
“I am in the throes of getting it up and running,” said Eric, who would also be available as a consultant to senior teams in Perth.
He is particularly proud of the success of his three sons – Rhys, Ryan and Aryn Williams.
Rhys is a former Socceroo and captained English side Middlesbrough at one stage. After a brief spell with Perth Glory he is now proving to be a key asset with Melbourne Victory in the A-League.
Twins Ryan and Aryn have also had great success. Ryan, who has played for the Australian under-20 and under-23 teams, is a talented winger with English side Rotherham, while Aryn has joined Neroca in the Indian League after a spell with Perth Glory.
PIC ONE: Eric Williams in his days in Myanmar. PIC TWO: Eric (front row, four from left) with the Hall of Fame/English Media line-ups in 2006.