Ashley Williams: Cardiff City catcalls will make Swansea City smile
ASHLEY Williams has revealed how there will be sniggers, not quivers, when Swansea City's team bus goes "behind enemy lines" in Cardiff tomorrow.
Williams has played in all seven of the South Wales derbies since the fixture returned after a nine-year absence in 2008.
And he insists the reception committee which will inevitably be waiting at the Cardiff City Stadium will lighten the mood of Michael Laudrup's players rather than trigger gnawing of nails.
"There will be a few sniggers as there will always be someone doing something funny," Williams explains.
"You get the usual stuff — you see a kid giving you a bit of abuse.
"No-one is going to be in a relaxed mood because the game is so big, but when you see that it switches you on a bit more and you realise what it is going to be about. You realise the game is now.
"You get off the main road and go down the hill to the stadium and they are all lined up along the street and they are not very pleased to see you.
"But it's good — I think these games are brilliant.
"I am sure they've been looking at this fixture the same way we have been — it is such a big game for us in our calendar."
There have been times in the past when Swansea players have taken stick at Cardiff's home even when they are wearing the red of Wales.
Williams, the Welsh captain these days, is happy to report that there have been no such incidents of late.
But he is well aware that his status with Wales will count for nothing this weekend.
"When you pull up at the ground it is a bit different from a Wales game," Williams adds.
"It's never nice getting booed, but I know that's the way it will be because I'm wearing a Swansea shirt.
"I enjoy playing in the derby games at home because you are in front of your home fans and you have got their backing, but it's also nice to play away as you feel like you are behind enemy lines.
"You are there and they don't want you there and they are going to let you know that, but that's why we play the game.
"Nobody's going to shy away from that.
"We will all be up for it — that will just spur us on a bit more."
One of the various pre-derby cliches reminds us that the form of either team heading into the game does not count for much.
Only two points separate the neighbours in the early-season table but, for the moment at least, Swansea are much better placed in ninth than Cardiff in 16th.
If Laudrup's men finish the season in the same position, they will be delighted.
Yet Williams nods at the suggestion, first made this week by the chairman, that Swansea are not yet firing on all cylinders in 2013-14.
"I would probably agree — certainly consistency-wise," he says.
"We have shown what we can do in spells of all the games, but we are not where we would like to be.
"We are doing okay. We are in a decent position in Europe and the Premier League and we are working hard to get to where we should be.
"We have had a lot of challenges already this season — new players, Thursday-Sunday football — and we are still trying to find the solution to a few problems."
All at this end of the M4 hope there will be no need for trouble-shooting tomorrow.
The identity of the referee has caused a pre-match stir.
Last time he took charge of a Welsh derby, in 2009, Mike Dean was hit on the head by a coin and then awarded the softest of penalties to present Cardiff with a stoppage-time equaliser.
Ross McCormack went flying to win the spot-kick — after an innocuous challenge from Williams.
"I remember the decision and it still hurts me," Williams says.
"I still don't think it was a penalty, but I have had a chat with about it since with Mike Dean and I get on well with him now.
"I was surprised when he was named as the ref for this game, but only because of the coin incident. He's refereed plenty of big games and he's experienced."
Huw Jenkins floated the idea that Swansea might be awarded a questionable penalty tomorrow to make up for that dreadful call at Ninian Park.
Nobody should bet on that happening given Swansea's recent record.
Ideally, of course, Williams and Co will want to get the job done without any help from the man with the whistle.
For there are few sweeter feelings than a win in the neighbours' back yard.
"It's nice to win the derby at home, but maybe it's better to win there," Williams says.
"We won there last time and that was a great day. There were some good scenes after the game and that shows you the game is important to the players as well as the fans.
"We realise how tough it is going to be. They have a good squad — they have bought well — and they are at home.
"I think they will race out of the gate and they will be aggressive on and off the ball.
"We also know they are a team who hang in there, so we will have to perform right up until the final whistle."
Williams had not tasted a heavyweight derby before joining Swansea.
The only local squabble he had been part of until then was Hednesford Town against Stafford Rangers.
But after five years as a Swan, Williams now knows all about the rivalry in these parts.
Nevertheless, he still gets plenty of reminders.
"There is definitely more attention building up to this game," he says.
"If you go shopping in Tesco, people are telling you that you've got to win on Sunday.
"If you step out of your house, you are going to hear about the derby.
"I enjoy the week leading up to the game — all the build-up and even the warm-up on the day.
"But then you have to focus when kick-off comes.
"We want to win it so all those people can go to work with a smile on their face on Monday morning."