Having played 741 games and been capped 86 times for his country, former Swansea City and Wales captain Ashley Williams has announced his retirement from professional football.
Nowadays the term legend is bandied about all too frequently, but few Swansea City and Wales fans would argue that the 36 year old centre back is not worthy of being called a Legend.
Tamworth born Williams was signed by Roberto Martinez in March 2008, initially only on loan from Stockport County until the end of the 2007–08 season.
In fact, it was quite a whirlwind 24 hours for the defender, making his full Welsh international debut against Luxembourg and then signing for the Swans!
During his initial loan stint, Williams played five times making his full debut in the crucial 0-0 draw at fellow League One promotion chasers Carlisle United.
After helping the Swans win the League One title during his loan spell, he was signed on a permanent deal, for a then Swans club record fee of £400,000 on 1st June 2008.
On 16 September 2008, Williams scored his very first Swansea City goal in a 1–1 draw against Derby County at the Liberty Stadium, going on to impress during his first season at Championship level.
By his own admission, one of Williams’ career highlights was the Swans 2010–11 Play-Off Final win over Reading at Wembley Stadium, which saw the club gain promotion to the Premier League.
For many Swansea fans, the central defender was a born leader and created a club record playing 166 consecutive league games. His reward for his consistent displays saw him being chosen in both PFA teams of the year in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
During the 2010-11 season, Williams played in all 46 Championship games, as well as all 3 Play-Off games.
However, it was in the Premier League where Williams really began to shine as a player at the highest level.
He scored the club’s first ever Premier League away goal in the 4-1 defeat at Chelsea in September 2011 and went on to make 181 Premier League appearances for the club over 5 seasons, becoming one of the Premier League’s most reliable yet underrated players.
Williams became a permanent fixture in the heart of the Swans defence, captaining the team to a first major trophy, following the 5–0 win over Bradford City in the 2013 League Cup final, before lifting the trophy with club captain Garry Monk.
After acting as captain for the majority of the Swans matches during the previous two seasons, Williams was permanently handed the club captaincy after Monk stepped down from the role in July 2013.
He lead the Swans to the Europa League Round of 32, where they were eventually beaten by a star studded SC Napoli side, managed by Rafael Benitez in February 2014.
Such had been Williams contribution on a football field, that in April 2015, he was named in the Football League’s Team of the Decade, which also featured another Swansea City favourite, Angel Rangel.
Williams endeared himself to the Jack Army for his no-nonsense, passionate approach to the game, always giving 100% no matter what the game or occasion.
Little wonder perhaps then that the defender was nicknamed “Frank the Tank” by his Swansea team-mates.
Many fans will remember Sir Alex Ferguson’s post match rant about how Williams “could have killed” Manchester United’s Robin van Persie during a 1-1 draw at the Liberty in December 2012.
But Williams not only shone in the white shirt of Swansea, but the red of Wales too, being named captain of Wales by manager Chris Coleman in October 2012.
He was part of the first Welsh squad to qualify for a major tournament in 58 years, when Wales qualified for Euro 2016. Before going on to lead his side to the semi-final of the tournament, after that heroic 3-1 win over favourites Belgium in Lille, where Williams scored the all important equaliser.
During his eight year stint at the Swans, Williams played under seven Swans bosses in all – Martinez, Paulo Sousa, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk, Alan Curtis and Francesco Guidolin.
Sadly having made more than 350 appearances for the Swans, scoring 14 goals, Williams would never wear the Swansea shirt again, after signing for Everton for £12 million a few weeks before his 32nd birthday.
Perhaps fittingly, the last appearance Williams made for the Swans was the 3-1 win over Liverpool at the Liberty in May 2016, a team whom he had supported since a boy.
After two seasons at Goodison Park, Williams would have further spells at Stoke City and Bristol City.
Having been without a club since the end of the 2019/20 season, the 6ft defender has now decided to hang up his boots for good.
Thank you for all of the memories Ashley, you will always be remembered as a Swansea City Legend and the man who captained Wales to the Euro 2016 Semi-Finals.
If you would like to share your best Ashley Williams moments, leave a comment on the ‘Happy Retirement Ashley’ thread on the SCFC2 forum.