Defender's story on road to penning professional contract
New Town signing Curtley Williams is hoping that his experiences overseas as a youngster will stand him in good stead at Kenilworth Road.
The 24-year-old joined the Hatters from Lowestoft last month to become John Still’s first summer signing following promotion back to the Football League.
Signing a two-year contract with the Town represents a “career high”, says Williams, but his road to earning a professional contract has been a long and winding one.
After being released by Ipswich as a teenager, the defender travelled to Spain to be a part of the Glenn Hoddle Academy, and after spell in South Africa, he was back in the UK learning his trade in the rough and ready reaches of the Ryman league.
Not only has Williams clocked up plenty of airmiles, he arrives in Bedfordshire knowing a thing or two about football – and life itself.
“I joined Ipswich as a 10-year-old and went right through their academy but after my two-year scholarship they never offered me a professional contract,” he explains to Hatters Player.
“At that point I was accepted to join the Glenn Hoddle Academy – a place where footballers who hadn’t been offered a pro deal for whatever reason the chance to improve on their weaknesses and develop their strengths.
“The Academy gave players an opportunity to get back into the game, but for me it was a great life experience. It was a camp, in Spain, full of young, hungry English players desperate to prove a point. We played in the lower leagues in Spain and some of the things I learned will last with me forever.
“Technically and tactically it was a great experience for me. Glenn was there a lot, as was Graham Rix, Dave Beasant, Nigel Spackman and John Gorman. These guys have so much knowledge. It was unreal learning from these people who have achieved so much in the game.”
Once his spell in the Academy was over it was back to England for Williams.
“It was difficult for me after coming back to this country,” admits the defender. “It was a case of learning the trade again, especially playing non-league football.
“It was a real eye-opener, though, and I learned so much back then. These players were playing football to put food on the table for their children. They were committed, honest men, not to mention rough.”
Following spells with Chelmsford and Aylesbury and trials in Scotland and in Europe, South Africa was Williams’ next stop in search of success.
“Bally Smart, a friend of mine who I knew that used to play for Norwich was South African,” he says. “I took my boots on the off chance and I managed to play a bit out there.
“It was another good experience for me but I came back in 2012 and I said to my parents that I needed to settle down.”
And that’s when he signed for Lowestoft.
“They are the biggest non-league team closest to where I live,” says Williams. “The size of the club, the coaching staff and the support is the best in the area and for me it was the perfect place to settle.
“Playing for Lowestoft has done me the world of good and I’ve learned so much and feel I’ve improved a lot as a player. Now I’m at Luton I’m determined work even harder to get better and help the team to continue its success.”