Mark Williams was that rarest of things in football - a Dario Gradi mistake. He began as a Crewe trainee but was released into non-league football at the end of his apprenticeship and joined Welsh side Newtown, who were then in the English pyramid system. Shrewsbury brought him back to the League game in 1992 and he completed 103 League appearances for them before joining Chesterfield in the summer of 1995.

 

"Bomber" proved to be an absolute steal on John Duncan's part, becoming the rock on which Chesterfield planted an impressive defence. He never looked to be anything less that wholeheartedly committed to the cause: he was mightily strong in the tackle and in the air, and clearly relished physical battles against bustling opponents. He was occasionally caught out by a quick change of pace - name a lower-division centre-half who isn't - but proved to be an inspiring and hugely effective member of the team. Going forward, he posed a considerable threat in the air, in attempting to score himself, or flicking the ball on, and, with a powerful shot, he wasn't averse to having a pot at a free-kick from distance.

 

Mark was named the Supporters' Club player of the year for '97-8. His good form upon return from injury in October 1998 brought him to the attention of Lawrie McMenemy, the Northern Ireland manager, who considered exploiting the Irish ancestry of Mark's mother in order to give him an international call-up. Bomber made his full international debut against Germany at Windsor Park on March 27th., 1999. He thus became the first Chesterfield player to make his full international debut while on the club's books. After winning four caps, and equalling Walter McMillen's club record for most caps as a Spireite, Mark exercised his right to a move under the "Bosman" ruling and left for Watford, newly promoted to the Premiership, despite having been offered four different improved contracts by the Spireites.

 

Mark eventually made 34 appearances for Northern Ireland. His Premiership adventure lasted one season and ended in relegation at Watford, whereupon he moved to Wimbledon. He remained there (or, rather, he went up the M1 with the rest of them) until 2005 but had had his time there punctuated with a loan spells at Rushden, Stoke and a season in the NSL with Columbus Crew. Mark thus probably became the only bloke to play for Crewe in the UK and Crew in the USA!

 

In 2005 Mark took up residence in Spain, as a director of VIP Golfing Breaks, organising golf-themed holdays in the Costa del Sol.


For Chesterfield: 168 Football League appearances, 12 goals.