Increasingly influential

It has been an incredible journey for the Swans and also Ashley Williams, who is now Wales’ captain and reportedly being eyed by the likes of Liverpool, writes Daniel Pilkington.

A decade ago Ashley Williams was playing non-League football but the defender became the first Swansea captain to lift a major trophy.

Williams used to do shifts at a bowling alley during his time as a semi-professional footballer but that must seem a distant memory to the 28-year-old, who created history along with his Swansea team-mates as they beat Bradford in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley recently.

Swansea’s upturn in fortunes is a remarkable story as they were almost going out of the Football League a decade ago, but they will be playing in Europe next season.

It has been an incredible journey for the Swans and also Williams, who is now Wales’ captain and reportedly being eyed by the likes of Liverpool having been released by West Brom at the age of 16.

And, after climbing the Wembley steps to be presented with the Capital One Cup trophy, Williams could hardly believe how far he has come.

“This is what we all dreamed about as little boys,” said Williams. “We had a job to do and I thought we did it brilliantly.”

When Williams was released by Albion he joined Hednesford Town and soon caught the eye of Stockport County.

The commanding defender’s leadership qualities ensured he was named captain of the Hatters and in November 2007 he was named North-West League Two Player of the Year.

Williams attracted the attention of clubs in higher divisions and in March 2008 he joined the Swans on loan with a view to a permanent move.

The Wolverhampton-born centre-half completed his GBP400,000 move to the Liberty Stadium after some impressive displays both at the back and filling in as a holding midfielder.

He was named Wales Footballer of the Year in November 2009 and was then included in the Championship PFA Team of the Year for the 2009-10 season.

Williams was becoming increasingly influential with every game and in October 2010 he equalled a club record of 106 consecutive League games played for the Welsh side.

He was once again named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year and became a English Premier League player when the Swans were promoted to the EPL for the first time in their history in May 2011.

Williams scored the club’s first ever EPL goal in a defeat at Chelsea and turned in some impressive performances as Swansea looked very much at home in the top flight under Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers departed for Liverpool last summer but Michael Laudrup has come in and the Welsh club have kicked on under the legendary Dane.

The good news kept coming for Williams, who was named Wales captain last October and also signed a new three-year deal with Swansea.

Swansea’s attractive brand of passing and movement has won them many admirers and they sit comfortably in ninth place in the EPL.

With the likes of Michu and Pablo Hernandez gracing the Liberty Stadium, Swans fans must be pinching themselves and winning the League Cup put the icing on the cake for a club that had become accustomed to playing in the lower leagues.

Williams continues to be linked with a reunion with Rodgers at Liverpool, while Arsenal are also reportedly keen on the Wales skipper. But regardless of what the future holds for the burly centre-back, he will always go down in Swansea folklore as the man who captained the club when they won their first major trophy.

Williams’ wife is Vanessa and they have two children.

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