TORONTO — Jan-Michael Williams nearly called it quits following the biggest disappointment of his career: Failing to qualify for last summer’s World Cup.
Trinidad and Tobago fell short in CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying, the closest Williams, who has appeared in goal 81 times for the Soca Warriors, had gotten to his ultimate dream.
“I was close to retirement,” Williams admitted to CanPL.ca. “Then (HFX Wanderers coach Stephen Hart) got the job in Halifax.”
Hart managed T&T for three years, leading them to that elusive “Hex” appearance.
He and Williams had kept in touch ever since.
“Stephen said to me, ‘Ah, you’re crazy’. He thought I had way more to give,” Williams explained.
Williams eventually thought better of folding up his goalkeeping gloves.
The 34-year-old was one of a quartet of T&T talent Hart signed earlier this month.
Williams has spent the majority of his career in Trinidad, with short stints in Belgium, Hungary and Guatemala.
“It’s a long way for me to go, but it’s a long way for him too, what with setting me up and everything,” Williams said. “I just want to show (Hart) gratitude.”
Williams clearly thinks highly of Hart, calling him a “wonderful man-manager.” He says he has enjoyed some of the best football of his career under the CPL’s most experienced coach.
“Just spending time with Stephen on the national team, it shows how it made me a better player,” Williams said. “We were at an all-time low when Hart came and he took us to great heights. He just knows how to get the best out of his players.”
“I don’t want to give away his secrets to other coaches in the CPL,” Williams chuckled.
Q: Jan, what are you most excited for with your move to Canada?
A: Being with Steve! ❤️
— HFX Wanderers FC (@HfxWanderersFC) January 15, 2019
Williams faced Hart’s Canada in a 2-0 defeat in 2012 and remembers being impressed.
“When I shook (Hart’s) hand after the match I thought ‘maybe we should have a coach like this.’
“The way he set up his team and how he managed from his sidelines impressed me,” he added.
Still, Williams understands he’s set to, uh, have his hands full as a goalkeeper in a new league and country.
“From what I’ve seen so far, the league has attracted some very good players,” Williams said. “My concern are the players I’m not familiar with. I’ll have to sit down, do some video review and go from there.
“The ones that don’t have too much history, there isn’t much I can do in the way of homework, things they do will be new to me.
“At the end of the day, I think I have two to three more years of playing the game,” he finished. “I can still hit my peak, I don’t think I have yet.”