Ash: simply the best
1st February 2013
Wales boss Chris Coleman has hailed Swans defender Ashley Williams as the best centre-back in the Barclays Premier League ahead of tomorrow's trip to West Ham.
"There's not a better centre-half at the moment in the Premier League," declared Coleman during his Wales squad unveiling for the friendly against Austria at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday.
"People look at Ash and think 'he's playing for Swansea, not Chelsea or Manchester City'. Maybe that suits him, being up against it a bit more.
"There's not a better centre-half, performance-wise, I've seen in the last three or four months. I don't say that because he's the captain of Wales. Genuinely, I haven't seen a better performing centre-half, with or without the ball."
And Coleman believes Williams, 28, will only improve as he gets older.
"As a centre-half you get better and better. As a centre-half you do less running than any other player on the pitch apart from the goalkeeper, so as you get older and more experienced your positioning gets better.
"It's when you get older your experience of situations means you think quicker and you put yourself in a position where you don't have to race against anybody.
"Ash is already doing that so his best years are still ahead of him for me."
Williams will be looking for another solid display alongside defensive partner, Chico Flores, at West Ham tomorrow as the Swans look to protect the best away defensive record in the league.
The Swans have conceded just nine goals on their travels. And with 34 points already secured, another victory will edge Michael Laudrup's men even closer to that magic 40-point mark.
Midfielder Leon Britton will also be out to impress as he returns to his former club - the same club that allowed him to leave to join the Swans back in 2002.
Britton had become the most expensive teenager in the history of British football when Harry Redknapp took the then 16-year-old to West Ham from Arsenal in a £400,000 deal in 1998.
Having originally arrived at the Vetch Field on loan, Britton made the move permanent in time to help save the Swans from the dreaded drop to the Conference before becoming a pivotal figure in their rapid rise to the top flight.
"West Ham are a physical team with some big lads, so it's going to be a tough game for us," said Britton.
"Historically Upton Park has always been a tough place to go for opposition players, but we have done well on the road recently so hopefully we can get another good result."