Ipswich Town’s love affair with ‘Joniesta’ started the moment he silenced the Brighton boo-boys

Ipswich Town's Jonny Williams celebrates with the fans after setting up a goal at Brighton this time

Ipswich Town's Jonny Williams celebrates with the fans after setting up a goal at Brighton this time last year. Photo: PAGEPIX LTD - Credit: Archant

The moment he silenced the Brighton boo-boys was the moment Ipswich Town supporters fell in love with Jonny Williams.

The Welsh international had only just arrived at the club, but played like he’d been in a blue shirt all his life - that match coming almost a year ago to this day.

The then 20-year-old – on loan from the Seagulls’ fierce rivals Crystal Palace – was given a hot reception at a packed Amex Stadium, fans of the south coast club still smarting at their home defeat to the Eagles in the previous season’s play-off semi-finals.

And the diminutive midfielder responded with an all-action display full of tenacity and skill in equal measure, celebrating wildly in front of 1,784 jubilant travelling fans after he laid on the second goal in a 2-0 win which manager Mick McCarthy labelled ‘huge’.

Williams rifled home a superb goal in a dramatic 2-1 win over Derby at Portman Road days later. He had instantly become a fans’ favourite.

“I actually enjoyed getting booed. It was quite fun,” said the quietly-spoken youngster, who was still grinning ear-to-ear long after the final whistle that day down at Brighton.

“I think the celebration was a build-up of my season so far with the injuries and then being in-and-out of the (Palace) team.

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“It’s been a hard season for me, if I’m honest, and today I felt good again. I felt part of something special and part of a team again. That’s why it all came out like that. I just wanted to celebrate with the fans. It felt like I’d scored in a way.

“If Palace aren’t going to play me in the first team then I’d be happy to stay here and play. It’s good to get out to a great club full of great players and a great manager. I’ve enjoyed my time here so far and hopefully that can continue.”

Asked how he’d found working with McCarthy, Williams said: “He’s been fantastic. I’d only seen him on TV before I came here so I didn’t know how he was going to be, but he’s been first class. I think he’s a great manager and he’s been fantastic with me. He’s eased me in and I feel part of something really special.”

When Williams’ loan spell expired that season, a Town shirt with ‘Joniesta’ – the 20-year-old’s nickname among Eagles fans, in homage to Barcelona and Spain star Andreas Iniesta – was given to the youngster by McCarthy following his emotional farewell to fans and team-mates.

“We gave him a shirt with ‘Joniesta’ on it, because the lads have been giving him a bit of stick about that nickname,” said the Blues boss. “It was a bit of a mick-take and just a bit of fun. I just said ‘here’s something to remember us by’, because we’ll remember him that’s for sure. I think everybody who has seen him will remember him.

“He’s a lovely young man whose just enjoying playing first team football again. He’s a smashing kid, he really is. He plays with a smile on his face. He’s a pleasure to have around and a really talented player as well.”

When Williams returned for a second loan spell earlier this season, the unassuming youngster – good friends with Welsh international team-mate Gareth Bale – admitted it felt like coming home.

“I think there were rumours of other clubs, but deep down I knew where I wanted to go - I’m delighted to be back,” he said.

“I’ve only got positive things to say about last year, the manager has been fantastic with me and there’s a real good strong bond in the team at the moment as you can probably see on the pitch.

“The fans have been great with me too. It feels like I haven’t really been away to be honest. It just feels like I’ve had a really long summer.”

Asked about the shirt he had received from McCarthy, he said: “I got that framed asap. That was a really nice touch.

“I picked squad number 50 because there weren’t that many numbers left. I would have liked 25, but it wasn’t available so I doubled it up instead. If I come back a third time I probably won’t go for 75 though!”