Aaron Ramsey enjoys rapid rise to the top

By David DulinBBC Sport Wales
Aaron Ramsey
Aaron Ramsey has had 11 senior caps for Wales and has scored two goals

New Wales captain Aaron Ramsey was tipped to be a star from a young age.

But the 20-year-old, who has only just returned from a year out with a broken leg, could not have imagined he would be thrust into the limelight so soon.

Ramsey will lead out Wales at the Millennium Stadium against England on Saturday for their Euro 2012 qualifier and new boss Gary Speed's first competitive match in charge.

Yet it could have been so different for the Arsenal midfielder.

As well as football, Ramsey was a keen rugby player as a schoolboy - he was on the wing for Caerphilly RFC in their youth-development squad.

His talents were recognised by scouts for the rugby league club St Helens, who wanted him to join.

But thankfully for Welsh football, Ramsey had already been snapped up by Cardiff City's youth academy.

He came through the ranks there to make his debut for the Bluebirds as a 16-year-old in the 1-0 home defeat by Hull City in April 2007.

That summer, a £1m bid for Ramsey was rejected and he was also called into the Wales Under-21 set-up.

He went on to make 21 appearances for Cardiff in the 2007/08 season before Arsenal won the battle with Everton and Manchester United to sign him for £5m.

Within the space of just a few months, Ramsey had already played in the Champions League and Premier League for Arsenal and won his first Wales senior cap in the 1-0 friendly win over Denmark.

And on the eve of his 18th birthday, in December 2008, Wales and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs called on then Wales manager John Toshack to make Ramsey the focus of the team.

Since then, Ramsey has flourished, but his fledging career came to a temporary halt in February 2010 when he suffered an horrific double leg-break after going in for a tackle with Stoke's Ryan Shawcross in the Gunners' 3-1 Premier League win.

Thankfully, a year later, 11-times capped Ramsey has made a full recovery and had no hesitation in accepting Speed's offer to captain Wales.

"I snapped his hand off - I don't know who wouldn't," said Ramsey.

"I've always wanted to become captain of Wales one day and it has come at such a young age and hopefully I can become captain for many years now.

"It just shows the highs and lows of football, how quickly things can turn around.

"Obviously I broke my leg just over a year ago and it was a really low occasion for me and now this is the best moment in my career so far."

Ramsey's appointment has drawn some criticism from the likes of former Wales captain Kevin Ratcliffe who felt he is "very immature" to be a captain, but Speed backed his man.

"As I have mentioned before, it is about the future and planning ahead," said Speed.

"There were two or three candidates. I thought about what is best for the team going forward.

"I spoke to Aaron before making the decision and told him there were certain responsibilities and duties that would go with it, and to see if he was happy with it.

"I'm delighted and he was really happy. I made the decision because I thought it was best for the team and the future of the team."

But Ramsey shrugged off the criticism and took heart from 64-cap Giggs, who paid the Welsh team a visit in the build-up to the England game in Cardiff.

"He just wished me all the best and said to take it in my stride, enjoy the occasion and enjoy captaining your country," said Ramsey.

"It gives everyone a lift. He's done so much in the game and it's incredible what he's done. If he comes and watches us it's going to give us that extra bit of a lift."

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