Ashley Williams 'up there' with Premier League's best - Monk

By Rob PhillipsBBC Wales football correspondent
Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams joined Swansea from Stockport in May, 2008
Premier League
Match: Watford v Swansea City Date: Saturday, 12 September Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Wales FM in the Swansea area. Live text commentary plus score updates on every match on the BBC Sport website.

Swansea City manager Garry Monk says Ashley Williams has become one of the best central defenders in the Premier League.

Captain Williams returns to top-flight action with the Swans at Watford on Saturday, having led Wales to the brink of Euro 2016 qualification.

Monk was pleased there were no bids for Williams during the transfer window.

"Ashley has to be up there in the top three or four centre-backs in the [Premier] League," Monk said.

Williams and his Argentine centre-back partner Federico Fernandez have again proved to be the bedrock in defence during Swansea's unbeaten start to the new Premier League season.

Monk, who played alongside Williams as a Swans player, said: "I think he and Fede are actually one of the best partnerships in the League, the way they have performed together this season and last.

"But Ash himself... contributes [in] every game, the way he heads the group and with his experience."

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Monk said Williams' consistency over a long period has been an important factor, praising the former Stockport player for ignoring speculation linking him with other clubs.

"It's been rumoured for the last six or seven years [the Williams would join a rival club]," Monk added.

"But I don't think the club has actually received an offer and I am thankful for that. We are fortunate as a club to have Ashley here.

"He is fortunate he has come to a club where he has been helped and pushed in the right direction by various managers and to be able to play the sort of football we have played.

"I think it suits him being here, he is very comfortable and he is very passionate about the club and that is what you want if you are playing for any club.

"He enjoys his football, so I don't think it [transfer speculation] has ever been a distraction."

The Swans will welcome back Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero from injury for Saturday's trip to Watford.

Jefferson Montero
Jefferson Montero featured for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup finals

Modou Barrow will also be in the squad after being recalled from a loan spell at Blackburn to replace Nathan Dyer, who joined Leicester on a season-long loan on transfer deadline day.

Meanwhile, Monk has played down talk of Champions League football after England midfielder Jonjo Shelvey said he was confident the club could qualify for the competition this season.

"'It's good for players to have confidence. There is confidence and overconfidence, but right right now I think we have a good balance," Monk said.

"The players are playing with some freedom, confidence and a good way of working. It's about continuing that.

"But it's so early in the season to be talking about anything in terms of positions in the league.

"You need to get to that 10 or 15-game marker and it starts to even out, or you start to gauge where you could really push for where you are going to be fighting for.

'It was similar to that last season, so our focus is purely on the next game - trying to get three points from that game, doing our best in that game and see where it takes us."

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