In this blog post, JULES PRICE takes a look at why Swansea City legend Ashley Williams may well be heading away from South Wales this summer. And we don't mean on holiday.
I’ve lost count of reports linking established Swansea City players with bigger clubs, especially on the back of the Swans' continued success in the Premier League. This season there has already been a lot of speculation over players being lured away from Swansea including Michu, Vorm and of course Laudrup himself, while loanee Jonathan De Guzman would create a genuine void should he return to his parent club Villareal.
But a major headache for the club would be the departure of captain Ashley Williams. While he denies seeking a move, maybe there are some telltale signs to suggest otherwise.
What career path has Williams followed so far? After a short spell as a youth player at West Brom, he joined non-league Hednesford Town before being snapped up by Stockport County. He was well respected at Stockport and club captain, and was given a farewell round of applause when he signed for the Swans during the 2007-2008 season.
Since then, Williams has been a stalwart in the heart of the Swansea defence, breaking many records along the way. He holds the record in the 2012/13 Premier League season for the most blocks. His player influence stats are nearly always the highest in the Swansea team, and he has one of the highest pass completion rates amongst his peers. The icing on the cake was lifting the Capital One Cup at Wembley in February.
However, I have seen a side to Ashley Williams this season that has not been so visible previously. At the start of the season, the club was surrounded by rumour that all was not well behind closed doors, with the chairman holding meetings to resolve disputes between the players and the new management team. This seemed to have an effect on Williams as some sloppy back passing from him cost Swansea dearly. His levels of concentration were clearly strained.
Credit to him, his season has got back on track. But another problem occurs. Is he satisfied with the quality and commitment he sees from some of his teammates, especially the newer recruits? At the end of the West Brom away game and the recent Arsenal game at the Liberty Stadium, Williams was livid with some of his teammates, but one player in particular has been at the wrong end of his disgruntlement – Pablo Hernandez.
I have observed him shouting, swearing and screaming at Hernandez like I have never seen before, with pure frustration and anger. Could this be too much for Williams? I suspect he has had and will continue to receive offers from now until the start of next season, from other clubs and the opportunity may finally be right for him.
At 28-years-old a move to a richer club would guarantee one large pay-day before retirement, the possibility of Champions League football, and the chance to play with players of even greater ability. Or will Williams see Swansea’s entry into next season’s Europa League as enough of a challenge, and it will suppress any other desire to leave the club?
His agent Jamie Moralee has reiterated Williams is likely to stay, but he has confirmed discussions would need to take place between all parties if a substantial offer is received. With Arsenal and Liverpool reportedly admirers of the Swansea defender, the Swans will be lucky to have him playing for them during the 2013/14 season.