Wasiri Williams’ route to the professional game has been unconventional. The centre-half, who earlier this week signed a two-year deal with Partick Thistle, spent most of his fledgling career bouncing around the English non-league before being snapped up by Swansea City following a successful trial spell last summer.

The 23-year-old is something of a late bloomer compared to many of his contemporaries in the sport. The step up from amateur football to the professional game can often prove to be a sizeable one, and it is one that is usually made in a player’s late teens, as opposed to their early twenties.

Understandably, Williams wasn’t quite ready to be pitched into the first team and the hustle and bustle of the English Championship, so in January of this year the defender was sent on loan to Dundalk in the League of Ireland for his first taste of the professional game.

What awaited Williams was something akin to a trial by fire –one that the promising defender didn’t emerge from entirely unscathed.

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“He came in on loan from Swansea and we didn’t know much about him,” explained James Rogers, an Irish football journalist who covers Dundalk regularly.

“There is an interesting backstory to him – he had been at so many non-league clubs in England then got a chance at Swansea. He never really progressed to the first team but he captained their under-23s a few times. He was unlucky, too, because he had a couple of injuries there.

“He reinvented himself. He was in trouble as a kid and then he got himself on the straight and narrow [Williams was convicted of robbery as a 17-year-old before turning his life around and becoming a youth development officer for Reaching Higher, a charity that supports young people]. On the couple of occasions that I spoke to him, he came across as a really nice, honest bloke – just a good person.

“At the start of the year the two centre-backs would have been Andy Boyle – who made his 300th start for Dundalk this week, is a club legend and has been capped for Ireland – and then Louis Annesley, who is a Gibraltar internationalist.

“Wasiri was thrown into the deep end a little bit because he hadn’t been playing much football. Normally when someone comes in from England in January, it is halfway through the English season and they are a bit ahead of where the Irish players would be in terms of match sharpness.

“Boyle got an injury and Annesley contracted sepsis and missed 16 matches, so Wasiri was thrown in at the deep end and he was playing alongside Hayden Muller, who had a loan spell at St Johnstone a couple of seasons ago.

“He came in from Milwall where he had only played a handful of games, so you were basically going in with two centre-backs who had no real senior football experience. They made a couple of mistakes but to be fair, he looked like a player who would have really benefited from someone a bit more experienced beside him.

“He is tidy on the ball, he’s big, he’s strong and he looked to be getting better game by game. Towards the end he lost his place but it was probably more that Boyle and Annesley came back around a similar time, so the move [to Thistle] probably suits him.

“But there is definitely a player there. You can see the potential – Swansea don’t pluck players from the National League unless you have something. Obviously he didn’t make it at that level but there is no shame in not playing Championship football.

“He definitely benefitted from it and the Dundalk experience will probably benefit him at Partick Thistle because he has now got that six months of football under his belt. He played 11 matches that he didn’t have prior to the move and he should benefit from that because he should be ahead of everyone in terms of match fitness, in theory.”

Williams found himself pitched into a dysfunctional team, so perhaps it is no surprise that he struggled a little initially. Dundalk were missing key players and going through a period of transition, Rogers says, and shouldering the team’s defensive burden while so inexperienced was always going to be a big ask for the centre-half. And there will have undoubtedly been spells where football was not exactly at the forefront of Williams’ mind, for entirely understandable reasons.

“There had been a lot of change and it doesn’t help to lose your two first-choice centre-backs,” Rogers observed. “His girlfriend has cancer so he missed a game at the start of June where he had to go home at short notice to be with her. That’s not an ideal scenario when you are in a new country and that’s at the back of your mind.

“He’s a lovely guy and he was popular among the team. There is definitely potential there because he is fast, he is strong and he has good distribution. He has all the attributes to make it and have a good career.

“He is a player I would have loved to have seen nurtured into the team and maybe played alongside someone like Boyle, who has that experience. He maybe took the occasional risk and he could have used having a talker beside him to bring him on a little bit.”

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Williams is likely to be presented with exactly that at the Wyre Stadium At Firhill. Aaron Muirhead will be the Englishman’s partner in central defence and the period of adjustment from a tactical perspective shouldn’t be especially lengthy, given that Dundalk and Thistle both employ a back four where there is an onus on the full-backs to get forward and support the attack.

“It’s very similar,” Rogers said. “Dundalk play with a back four. He mainly played as the left-sided defender but he also played as the right-sided centre-half as well. He is a good passer of the ball and you need that in the modern game as a centre-back. He has all the attributes.

“Sometimes you have to make a few mistakes so you can learn from them and cut them out, and he probably did that. I wouldn’t fault him for any particular goal, the team were just going through a bit of a transition and had injuries to a few key players. He didn’t do badly, I just think we could have seen more from him if he was alongside someone who can organise the back four a little better.”