Ashley Williams – A Tribute To An All Time Great

When John Toshack broke Swansea City’s record transfer fee to sign Colin Irwin in 1981, no one could have foreseen that the fee of £350,000 would not be broken for over a quarter of a century.

As the Swans dropped back down the leagues shortly after that, very little money was spent on transfers and it wasn’t until the club moved to the Liberty Stadium in 2005 that any serious money was spent on the first team.

Kenny Jackett and then Roberto Martinez reaped the benefits of our new found wealth and it was the latter who would splash out £400,000 to make Ashley Williams our record purchase in March 2008.

By that stage the Swans were on the brink of promotion to the Championship, and this signing was with that in mind. Martinez had spent most of the season looking for a dominant centre half and he proved to be more than worth the wait.

Ash had all the attributes that made him a great modern day defender, great with the ball at his feet and able to start attacks, aggressive in the tackle, strong in the air and a born leader.

He made three appearances at the end of that season as the League One title was won, but it was in the Championship where he became a regular.

His partnership with Garry Monk at the heart of the Swans defence over the next three years would culminate in promotion to the Premier League in 2011 under Brendan Rodgers and remarkably he had played in every single league match during that period.

That run of games would eventually end in March 2012 on 166 consecutive league appearances – a record that will prove almost impossible to beat, and by that time Swansea were firmly established as a Premier League club.

The good times got better and better for the Swans and for Williams, in 2013 as he became the first man to lift a major trophy in our history as Michael Laudrup’s side thumped Bradford 5-0 in the League Cup final on a bitterly cold but glorious Sunday afternoon at Wembley.

The following summer he became club captain, he had stood in as the skipper numerous times as Monk and Alan Tate were phased out of the first team and lead us on a European tour that would end with a brave and unfortunate defeat to Napoli.

There were numerous links with other clubs around this time with Liverpool and Arsenal often being mentioned as potential moves for our skipper but when he signed a new contract in the summer of 2014 it looked as if he would commit the remainder of his career to the Swans.

The following season saw us achieve our second highest finish of 8th but the season after was a struggle, and crucial goals from Williams in wins over Watford and at Arsenal went a long way to securing survival.

That summer he starred for Wales at Euro 2016. He was a huge part of the side that achieved qualification and started all ten qualifiers in which six clean sheets were kept. It got even better in France as Wales reached the last four and Williams scored a tremendous header against Belgium in the quarter final to help turn the game in our favour.

Following the conclusion of the tournament, Williams decided to seek a new challenge at Everton, after eight amazing years and more than 350 games for Swansea City during our most successful era.

Our transfer record has been broken several times since he arrived nearly thirteen years ago, but in terms of value for money Ash is one of our greatest ever signings.

The term legend is used so often these days and it really winds me up because it decreases its meaning. It should only be used for those who truly deserve it.

Ashley Williams is without doubt one those who truly deserves it.

If I was ever tasked with naming a greatest eleven in the history of Swansea City, then it would be impossible to leave him out. And when you’re talking about a football club that is nearly 110 years old, that tells you everything you need to know about just how good he was and the lasting impact he had.

Happy retirement Ash, thank you for the memories and for your tremendous service to our club and country.