Mike Williamson has told the Football League Paper that Fabricio Coloccini was one of the best defenders he's ever played with - beating off competition from Steven Taylor, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Adrian Mariappa and various Torquay and Wycombe team mates.
The 32-year-old recently made his loan spell at Wolves permanent, ending a six-year spell at Newcastle. Signed in 2010 with the Magpies down in the Championship, Williamson and Coloccini were still starting Premier League games together last year as Newcastle conceded a whopping 63 goals - only QPR let in more.
But the 6ft 4in centre back has a lot of respect for Coloccini, who he believes was under-rated. “I’ll stay in touch with him for life now,” says Williamson. “He’s a good guy, a good friend. And undoubtedly one of the best I’ve ever played with. In my eyes, he should have far more caps for Argentina."
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Newcastle have long been criticised for having a leaky defence, conceding 59, 68, 51 and 57 goals in the four seasons before last. So often the fulcrum of that back line, their partnership was slated by fans and pundits alike.
Whilst both notably lack pace, Williamson thinks they covered each other's weaknesses. “Colo’s never been that vocal but I think we complemented each other as a pair. I organised, kept the shape. Technically, he’s incredible and he reads the game so well.
“He’s not slow by any means. But I think he’s a perfect example of why centre-halves develop later. Experience is more crucial there than in any other position. The older you get, the more you can predict situations and react before it occurs. He’s a master at that.”
Williamson joined Portsmouth in 2009 but was soon banished to their reserves because the crisis-club couldn't afford any future appearance-based fees owed to Watford. Six months later, they cut their losses and sold him to Chris Hughton's side. Recent years have been tough on Tyneside, with Hughton replaced by Alan Pardew preceding various spells of fan protests. After a much-publicised 'Sack Pardew' campaign, the manager left for Crystal Palace.
But Williamson is full of praise for Pardew: “One thing I’ve realised about Alan – and this is something I didn’t see at the time – was the way he handled the amount of pressure he was under. He had a fantastic aura about him and the way he led the team and kept spirits up was quite extraordinary. Even in the most extreme situations, he never let it show. The way he presented himself to the team, day in, day out, you’d think nothing was wrong. That was very commendable and very necessary.”
Looking forward, Williamson is optimistic about his career's new chapter. Currently 11th, promotion looks unlikely but the defender aims to get Wolves back to the Premier League whether it's this season or next.
“That was the big attraction for me,” he says. “I look at our squad, the blend of youth and experience and it’s all there to make a late surge.
“Fundamentally the division is still the same. It’s competitive. It’s physically and mentally gruelling. The standard has risen but we have a good team, with quality in every position.
“Yes, Newcastle had proven players. But the biggest thing was getting on a roll and breeding confidence. That made us unstoppable and that’s what we need to grow here.”
Newcastle fans: Do you wish Williamson still played for the club? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!