We take a look at the ups and downs from MJ Williams’ Bolton career after the midfielder completed a permanent move to MK Dons.

Immediate promotion

Williams joined Wanderers midway though the 2020/21 campaign and played his part in a remarkable promotion.

Ian Evatt’s men had been written off after a difficult spell but went on a phenomenal run of form to climb into the automatic promotion spots.

Williams played the full 90 minutes in the 4-1 win at Crawley on the final day as the Whites’ promotion was confirmed.

He couldn’t have imagined a better start to his Bolton career! It was just a shame that fans couldn’t join in with the celebrations at the Broadfield Stadium due to the pandemic.

Show of faith

Williams’ consistent performances were rewarded with a new contract in November 2021 alongside Gethin Jones, George Thomason and Kieran Lee.

It was a no-brainer for the midfield linchpin, who said: “I’m loving every minute. I feel like this is my home now. I’m settled in a team that’s got a lot of quality and a manager that has been absolutely brilliant for me.”

The former Liverpool youngster would continue to play an important role as Evatt’s men finished ninth in their first season back in the third tier.

Off the mark

As a defensive-minded player, Williams doesn’t get too many opportunities to make his mark in the final third.

However, the 27-year-old got on the scoresheet with a dramatic equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday in April 2022.

He beat Northern Irish international Bailey Peacock-Farrell an instinctive finish after the visitors had failed to deal with a corner, sending the home crowd into raptures.

Williams has since joked that he didn’t know what to do after the ball hit the net, admitting it was “a long time coming”.

Injury frustration

The midfielder has had his fair share of injury problems since making his senior debut at Liverpool back in September 2014.

The most severe was a knee injury that almost put an end to his playing career before it had really got started. Thankfully, Williams was able to return to the pitch after becoming the first English footballer to undergo a cartilage transplant.

He required another knee operation last season, although this one was significantly more routine. It kept him out of action for just over a couple of months and he returned for the final run-in.

Wembley joy

Williams returned to action just in time to feature in the memorable 4-0 win against Plymouth at Wembley in the EFL Trophy final.

The midfielder had played in the ties against Barrow, Manchester United Under-21s and Portsmouth en route to the final, and it would have been cruel to miss out on the experience.

He came off the bench for the final eight minutes against the Pilgrims, replacing Aaron Morley in the middle of the pitch.

The game was already won at that point and Williams could properly take in the occasion, stepping onto the pitch in front of nearly 80,000 people.

Versatility pays off

With Ricardo Santos and Eoin Toal both ruled out, the 27-year-old revisited the centre-back role during the final weeks of the campaign.

It was a position he hadn’t played since his Rochdale days, but that didn’t seem the case based on his performances.

Evatt hailed Williams’ “outstanding” efforts at the heart of defence, steadying the ship while numbers were depleted.

The Whites lost just one of their final six games in the regular season, including clean sheets against Shrewsbury and Fleetwood.