He’s an instantly likable bloke Ashley Williams. Relaxed, self confident but far from arrogant, the kind of person that you want representing your club, the kind of man that you want your children to look up to and he has been that role model to many young supporters at the club and for many players to.
His loss will be huge; there is a gaping hole in Swansea and one which will be difficult to fill. I first met ‘Ash’ in a library where he was promoting his book, he told a lot of stories about his career but my favourite was about how he got into the Welsh team.
John Toshack went to watch Stockport playing somebody as there was a couple of Welsh players on show (back when Wales were really shit!!). Tosh got given a team sheet as you do when in the posh seats and he noticed the name ‘Williams’ and thought that he must be Welsh.
The Stockport centre half caught the Welsh manager’s eye and so he spoke with him after the game and Ash was totally unaware of any Welsh blood but looked into it and later found out that his grandfathers roots meant that he was eligible to play for Wales and the rest is history.
To think that if his name was Smith then he probably would never have played! Although… He did clinch a move to Swansea two days after his Welsh debut so I’m sure we’d have got there in the end anyway!
That move clearly changed his career as well as the clubs. I remember us forking out the £400,000 and being quite unexcited! A lot of money for a centre back!! (I now think the £12 million we’ve had back is too cheap!)
Our club owes a lot of its success to the attitude of our great players as much as to their ability at times. Ash has always been a senior player at the club, someone who is a link between the players and the management team.
I remember talking to the Captain of Wales after Laudrup had taken over and he told me the clear difference in man-management styles between the Laud and Brendan. He said that Brendan would do everything for you, organise everything, from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to sleep basically. But the Dane was more a case of when you finish training then you had finished work and then you are on your own.
It is hard for us outside of football to get our head around that but it stuck with me. At first I thought he was slagging off Laudrup but he wasn’t; he was simply saying how different they were and it must be such a shock to a group of players for that to happen. It is hard to equate that to most of our everyday jobs but a management change can has a massive change to a team’s moral and it is then down to the senior players to bridge that gap and keep the group as normal as possible if you like; and he did on numerous occasions!
So under Laudrups rein, it was Ash and Monks who would organise meals after training and team bonding sessions and this is the kind of hole which now needs filling. I’m sure it will be filled, I’m sure there are new players within the group who will step up and be counted but it is a huge responsibility.
The captains armband is one thing but it goes deeper than that, we have had a player, a person, a family man on the inside, someone within the group of players that demands professionalism and decency and ultimately someone who knows and insists on the Swansea Way.
That is the hole that needs filling and ultimately is isn’t something that money can buy!