Onside: (Rolls) Rhys Williams needs to move through the gears for Middlesbrough


HE’S club captain, has ticked the box of playing just about every position in a Boro shirt and is undoubtedly one of the most prodigious talents to come through the famed youth system – and he’s in some company.

Yet when Rhys Williams inexplicably let the ball scoot past him in the middle of the park to leave Liam Davis (admittedly with plenty to do) to strike Yeovil into a 1-0 lead at the Riverside, it was an air of disappointment which met the ball hitting the net, not surprise.

It would be overly harsh to describe the silky Aussie schemer as a liability in the centre of defence this season. But mistakes have become somewhat of a common occurrence.

Maybe it’s just the fact that those mistakes have led to goals which have turned the spotlight in the direction of Boro’s number four.

More likely is the fact that the man himself, his gaffer and the fans know how good Rhys Williams can be.

The nickname Rolls Rhys didn’t stick just because the words work.

From the moment he first strolled - literally - into the Boro first team fold, Rhys epitomised class.

A Woodgate-esque defender who often didn’t have to make the desperate last gasp tackles quite simply because of his top-class reading of the game.

Equally, an aesthetically pleasing playmaker from the centre of the field who covers not far off every blade of grass with his long, loping stride paired with an eye to pick a pass.

Take your pick.

As clubs have come calling for the big earners and promising youngsters since Boro adjusted to life as a Championship club, it was only unfortunate spells out injured which restricted clubs to merely ‘having a look’ at Rhys without backing the interest up with firm bids.

In fact, as Dave Whelan forced himself onto the majority of news-based sports shows on the box and the wireless during the back-end of the recent transfer window, Wigan were rumoured to have been contemplating a bid.

It would have come as no surprise. Ever since Owen Coyle introduced Rhys into Championship life during a loan-spell at Burnley back in 2009, the Scot has been an admirer.

But as Boro continue to leak goals, it is now more than ever we need Rhys to step back into his own classy shoes and show the faithful just how good he can be.

For this season is a big one, not just to show that his frustrating niggles are a thing of the past and to get a good full club campaign under his belt, but also with the prospect of a spot in the Australia team at next summer’s World Cup up for grabs.

The need for form in that sense is now more important than ever. With Holger Osieck getting the axe after Australia’s 6-0 humbling against France on Friday night, Rhys is going to have a new international boss to impress in the near future.

If that somehow leads to an improvement in club form then it will be welcomed with open arms.

In the past Mogga had appeared to prefer Williams in the centre of the park, but after he struggled for form in that spot last season he looked like he was playing with a new lease of life when he was moved south into the back line at the back end of last term.

That’s where he’s started this year, yet questions still remain over what is his best position.

What isn’t in question is Rhys’ class when he’s on song.

But any club needs their best players to be playing to their best of their abilities. If Boro are going to start heading upwards again in the footballing league version of a game of Snakes and Ladders, Rhys at his best is a vital cog.

If Rolls Rhys starts easing through the gears again, it will be a huge boost in helping Boro to motor up the table.