James Chester has backed Ashley Williams to silence his critics and carry on showing his leadership skills as Wales captain.
Williams, who turned 34 last week, has had a torrid time for club and country over the last 12 months.
The 79-times capped central defender lost his Everton place before dropping down to the Sky Bet Championship and joining Stoke on a season-long loan earlier this month.
But Williams’ fortunes have not improved as he was sent off against Wigan last week, the second time he has been dismissed in three starts at club level.
Wales manager Ryan Giggs names his squad on Wednesday for the UEFA Nations League games against the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, and Williams’ travails have led to many on social media suggesting his distinguished international career is coming to an end.
But Chester told Football Paradise: “The lads know what an important player Ash has been, and is, for us.
“It was unfortunate that he had a difficult season at Everton last year but it did not matter when he turned up for Wales.
“He is our leader and I think Ash will certainly be around for a long time yet.”
Williams’ last Wales appearance in May saw him suffer a horror injury and end up in a Los Angeles hospital.
What seemed an innocuous collision with Mexico striker Javier Hernandez led to Williams suffering a collapsed lung and nursing “multiple breaks” to two ribs.
“When I saw the injury I was surprised that he was back so soon,” Chester said.
“It was a real nasty injury, but that show you the man Ash is.”
Chester missed the goalless friendly with Mexico in Pasadena as he got married that week.
But the Aston Villa captain is looking forward to the inaugural Nations League, which will see emerging Welsh talent Ethan Ampadu, Chris Mepham and David Brooks pushing for selection.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” Chester said.
“We’ve had a change of manager and we’ve got some really talented young players coming through in to the squad.
“We played a Mexico side that was getting ready for the World Cup and it was a good result against a team that did well in Russia.
“We saw Denmark at the World Cup and they’ve got some really good players, and it would be nice to beat Ireland after what happened in Cardiff last year.
“Obviously that’s one game we’d like to have back, but we’ve got a chance to go up against them again and start the competition well.”
– James Chester was speaking at the launch of McDonald’s UK’s new football sponsorship programme which will provide over five million hours of fun football for children across the UK by 2022. For further information visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football
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