Appy delight at capturing league’s best Williamson

Former Sheffield United midfielder Lee Williamson
Former Sheffield United midfielder Lee Williamson

Lee Williamson – the best player in League One last season.

That’s according to Michael Appleton, who is purring over his surprise transfer coup on a hectic day of recruitment at Pompey.

The former Sheffield United midfielder arrived at the Blues’ Eastleigh training base yesterday to pen a one-month deal.

Williamson netted 13 times for the Blades last season and turned down the offer of a new contract in favour of joining Appleton’s side.

Such was the 30-year-old’s interest in moving to Fratton Park, he journeyed to Spain last month for talks with the Blues boss at the club’s Spanish training camp.

Since then, the ex-Watford and Northampton man has been waiting for the green light to become a Pompey player.

Appleton knows he has captured Williamson in the face of fierce competition.

A clear indication Pompey, who also have former Stoke and Crystal Palace midfielder Tom Soares on trial, retains an impressive lure for players – regardless of its infinite financial difficulties and uncertain future.

The Blues boss said: ‘Lee arriving just shows the calibre of the football club.

‘People still see it as huge and that is why they want to come here. They know there are some fantastic fans, a great backing and a great belief in the city, regardless of everything that is going on.

‘I would like to think they want to come and work with myself and my staff as well – and they see it as an opportunity to further their career at a good club.

‘For me, Lee was probably one of – if not the best – players in League One last year and we’ve just got his services.

‘He scored a lot of goals from midfield and he’s a good, good footballer who can play anywhere across the middle.

‘I think we must have had some kind of spell on him to get him down here.

‘There have certainly been enough conversations with himself and his representative over the last couple of months.

‘We have both taken a chance in terms of the risk and I completely empathise with all the risks the players are taking.

‘These are short-term deals. We are having to put ourselves at risk, through no fault of our own, as well by having players sign short-term deals.

‘But there has been a lot of hard work put in to get to where we are now. A lot of people need to realise there has been a hell of a lot of hard work.

‘And having people like Lee Williamson, Izale McLeod, Jon Harley and Brian Howard shows that.’

Having started his career at Mansfield, Williamson went on to represent Watford in the Premier League.

He spent the past three years at Sheffield United, amassing 89 appearances and scoring 20 goals, before his contract came to an end this summer.

Now he is raring to go at Pompey, although Appleton is unsure whether the midfielder is match-fit enough to feature against Bournemouth tomorrow.

He added: ‘It’s going to be difficult for Lee to start with because he has not really trained much over the last two or three weeks.

‘But he’s excited and tells me he’s really fit. Who knows whether he plays a bit part or starts on Saturday, we will make a decision over the next 24 hours.

‘He will be in full training today.’