SCOTLAND v WALES (Tomorrow, KO 8pm)
WITH Joe Allen and David Vaughan absent through injury, Wales could unleash their secret weapon on Scotland tomorrow – a talented teenager who has earned the nickname ‘Joniesta’.
At 5ft 6in, midfielder Jonathan Williams is of similar stature to Spanish magician Andres Iniesta.
And the blue and red stripes of Crystal Palace match the famous Barcelona shirt, but the 19-year-old admits he has a long way to go before he matches the achievements of the World Cup winner.
“It’s a bit weird to be honest,” said Kent-born Williams, who qualifies for Wales through his father Peter from Anglesey.
“I think it was an old youth team coach who came up with the nickname. It’s very flattering to have a link to that kind of player but I just try to play my own game.”
The midfield playmaker has yet to make his senior debut in a Welsh shirt and he’s excited at the prospect of making his bow in the World Cup 2014 qualifier at Hampden Park.
“It’s very exciting. It’s a great ground and I’m really looking forward to it. It would be an unbelievable achievement to play there.
“My dad will be there, he travels everywhere to watch me, and it would be a proud moment to make my debut.”
Williams was first selected for Wales by Chris Cole-man’s predecessor Gary Speed when he was just 17 but his progress was held up by a broken fibula playing for the under-21s in Armenia in November 2011.
“There was gravel where there could have been sand on the pitch and it was snowing,” he recalled. “It was a day to forget.
“It’s been a hard couple of years but I’ve learned from it and come back stronger.
“I’m delighted to be fit and playing for Palace and I’m enjoying my football. I had great support from Wales and Palace in my comeback.”
Arsenal ace Aaron Ramsey has fought back from a similar injury and Williams says the former national team captain was an inspiration in his own recovery.
“I definitely thought of Aaron Ramsey when I got the injury and he sent me a really nice text when it happened,” he said.
“He gave me good advice and it was great to have someone like that to speak to as I was recovering.
“Now I can’t wait to play alongside him. It would be a dream after watching him when I was younger.
“I still remember that goal he scored against Scotland so hopefully he can do that again on Friday.”
Liverpool star Allen has been ruled out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a shoulder injury today.