5 Ashley Williams

wal Wales
August 23, 1984

Everton completed the signing of Wales captain Ashley Williams from Swansea City for an undisclosed fee in August 2016.

He spent eight years with the Swans before penning a three-year deal at Goodison Park to become Ronald Koeman’s third signing since taking over as manager.

Born in Wolverhampton but able to qualify for Wales through his maternal grandfather, Williams spent his youth career at West Bromwich Albion’s academy before being released at the age of 16.

Joining non-league Hednesford Town, it wasn’t long before his talents were recognised by clubs higher up the football pyramid – and Williams eventually put pen-to-paper with Division Two outfit Stockport County in 2003.
He became captain of the Hatters and his performances on the pitch earned him the inaugural North West League Two Player of the Year and the North West Player of the Year awards.

The powerful centre-back helped Swansea City to the League One title during a loan spell in 2008, then made the move to South Wales permanent ahead of the following campaign.

During his first full season with the Swans he was the only outfield player in the Championship to play every minute of all 46 league matches.

He achieved promotion to the Premier League in 2010/11 and won the League Cup in 2013, skippering the side. During his time at the Liberty Stadium, he was also crowned the Welsh Player of the Year for 2009 and named in the PFA Championship Team of the Year in 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Having made his international debut against Luxembourg back in 2008, Williams soon became Wales captain and starred at this summer’s European Championship in France, leading the Dragons to the semi-finals.

Having negotiated a group containing England, Slovakia and Russia, a hard-fought 1-0 win over Northern Ireland followed in the Round of 16. Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury in that first knockout game, then battled through the pain barrier to play 90 minutes and score the equaliser as Chris Coleman’s men recorded a historic 3-1 quarter-final victory over Belgium.

However, eventual winners Portugal were just too strong in the semi-finals, with Wales and Williams returning home to a heroes’ welcome.

Off the pitch, Williams has also made time to make a difference by launching his own charity, WillsWorld, which helps under-privileged children.

Williams was a near ever-present at the heart of Ronald Koeman’s defence during his first season with the Blues.

His first goal for the Club was a memorable one – his header earning a memorable 2-1 win over Arsenal under the floodlights at Goodison Park in December.