West Ham is a club that likes to promote itself as the academy of football and there is nothing as rewarding for a supporter than seeing a young player break through from the youth system and establish a career in the claret and blue; especially when that youngster is a local lad. In reality the record over the years in producing young talent has been rather patchy albeit there have been some spectacular successes and periods of plenty. In this occasional series we look at those young players for whom there were high hopes but were unable to become local heroes at West Ham.
The academy was experiencing one of its barren spells during the late 80’s and early 90’s with the last notable graduates being Tony Cottee and Alan Dickens, who had both been key members of the boys of 86. At the end of the 1993/ 94 season, 20 year old Danny Williamson was given his debut by manager Billy Bonds as a late substitute (for David Burrows) in a surprising 2-0 victory at Highbury, he then kept his place for the following two drawn games, away at QPR and at home with Southampton. In the Southampton match Williamson got his Upton Park career off to a flying start by putting West Ham ahead after just 11 minutes.
Danny Williamson was the perfect academy star, a keen West Ham supporter who was born in Plaistow and played locally for Newham and Essex boys before committing his future to the Hammers, despite the lure of interest from Arsenal. After signing his first professional contract Danny enjoyed short loan spells at non-league Farnborough Town and third division Doncaster Rovers before getting his first team opportunity at West Ham.
Between his debut and the start of the 1994/95 season there was upheaval at West Ham with Harry Redknapp taking the manager’s seat and the resultant bitter departure of Billy Bonds from the club that he had served so magnificently during a 27 year association. Redknapp’s appointment preceded the arrival of new midfield signings John Moncur and Don Hutchison at West Ham which together with an unfortunate ankle injury limited Williamson to just 4 appearances for the season. In the subsequent 1995/96 season, however, he took his chance to become a regular starter in the first team and made a total of 33 appearances, scoring 4 goals including a 70 yard run and finish away at Bolton.
His strong running, passing and ability to find space looked set to establish Williamson as a popular West Ham hero but his progress was to be interrupted once more by injury during the 1995/96 season. Having recovered from one setback he was injured again in his comeback game at home to Chelsea resulting in the need for surgery on his foot. It was while he was recovering from injury in August 1997 that he was sold to Everton in a deal, valued between £3 -4 million, which saw David Unsworth plus cash head to Upton Park. He had made a total of 58 appearances for his boyhood club.
Williamson enjoyed a good start to his Everton career, commencing with a 2-1 home win over West Ham, but an injury to his foot sustained against the Wimbledon Crazy Gang in December 1997 ended up being his last ever game. He remained at Goodison Park until his contract was cancelled at the end of the 1999/2000 season but he was never able to get far away from the treatment room. A career that had started with such promise was never fulfilled.
Some supporters can get quite irate and critical about players that are continually injured but it is unlikely that many stay in the treatment room through choice. With Danny there some accusations from Everton ‘scallies’ that Redknapp knew that he was crocked before the transfer but this is improbable given that Williamson had passed a medical before signing.
Danny Williamson retired completely from football at the end of his Everton contract, aged just 26, and later became involved in a property company operating in Portugal.