Ashley Williams – Captain, Leader, Swansea Legend
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on March 18, 2016
Having been released at the age of 16 by West Bromwich Albion, Williams, born in Wolverhampton, seemed to have just turned into another academy ‘reject’; quite simply, it seemed he’d never make it anywhere in the world of modern football.
The no-nonsense centre half joined Stockport County, who scouted him whilst playing for non-league side, Hednesford Town: remarkably, Williams made his international debut for Wales whilst still playing at Stockport; perhaps less remarkably, but it is also important to credit, during this time the Wolverhampton born central defender was captain of his aforementioned club side.
Throughout Williams’ time at Stockport, he won awards such as North-West Player of the Year award and North-West League Two Player of the Year – although these awards seem rather underwhelming, it is important to note these accolades, in order to be able to compare his progress, from the beginning of his career to where he is now.
In 2008, Swansea signed their, now captain, Williams, albeit on a temporary loan basis, with a view to a more permanent move later on. The centre back helped guide Swansea to winning the League 1 title, gaining promotion was a first for the Swans in twenty-four years. After this, the move was eventually made permanent, for a fee of £400,000 – at the time, a club record fee for the Welsh team.
His first season in the Championship can only go down as a success, winning Wales’ Footballer of the Year for the 2008-09 season. The season that followed was again another success; Swansea finished 7th in the league, missing out on the play offs by one point, in addition, Williams was selected in the Championship PFA Team of the Year, this was obviously down to, in no small part, the defender’s involvement in Swansea only conceding 37 goals all 2009-10 season.
The 2010-11 Championship PFA Team of the Year, once again, included Ashley Williams. However, this was not his greatest achievement for that year: the Swans were promoted to the Premier League, via a 4-2 play-off victory over English counterparts, Reading.
The only significant achievements of Williams’ first Premier League season may not that seem that great, but forever will be appreciated by Swansea fans, young and old – not only did the Wales’ captain score his first Premier League goal, albeit in a 4-1 loss away to Chelsea, he guided his team to Premier League survival; an absolute necessity for newly-promoted sides.
2012 could be described as Williams, and maybe even Swansea’s best ever year. In October, Williams signed a new contract to keep him at the club till at least 2015, however, if Williams’ was happy with signing on a fresh jotted line, what followed would surely only have him in dreamland; Swansea finished 9th in the Premier League, in only the clubs’ second season amongst the so-called ‘big boys’. Alongside that, the club won their first ever major trophy in English football – the League Cup – beating giant killers Bradford in the final, comfortably, 5-0. Williams’ also stood in for club captain Garry Monk in the final, meaning he lifted the Swans’ first ever major trophy.
Bar Williams’ appointment of Swansea captaining duties, after Garry Monk stepped down from the role, and his announcement into Team of the Decade at the Football League Awards, there haven’t been any other significant turns in his Swansea career; which perhaps can be seen as a positive, yet a negative: there haven’t been many signs of progression, nor regression.
As mentioned earlier, Williams is also captain of his country, Wales, even though it isn’t actually the country of his birth, prompting chants from rival fans of “Ashley Williams, he’s not even Welsh”. His international career, up until 2014, may seem exceedingly underwhelming, but what is encouraging is his guidance of his country, to the European Championships 2016, a true sign of progression, not only for Williams himself, but also Welsh football as a whole.