Community Champion: Ashley Williams

Swans defender Ashley Williams may be loving life in the Premier League, but he’s still got time for a pizza the action off the pitch as part of his own WillsWorld charity.

The Welsh international swapped the black and white of the Swans for the black and white of a chef’s outfit recently to put smiles on some young faces from the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group.

Ashley set up his WillsWorld charity just over a year ago with the aim of helping those in need, especially deserving and under-privileged children. And his latest offering saw him join forces with AG Swansea and the staff at the city’s Pizza Express to invite some deserving children along to learn how to make the Italian speciality.

A dozen children of all ages took up the offer to design, make and devour their own pizza, including Ashley himself.

“Pizza Express said I could bring the kids down and we’ve had a great bit of banter and some jokes with them. I love to see them having a good time.

With Ashley covered in flour, he was joined by fellow defender Fede Bessone, who was keen to add his support and sing the praises of his team-mate’s charity efforts.

“What he is doing is fantastic,’’ declared Fede. “You can see how much the children are enjoying themselves. You just can’t beat it.’’

The kids return to join Ashley at the table for an early supper and the noise level drops – well only for a split second as the discussion turns to who has made the best pizza?

“My pizza is definitely the best,” declares Ashley to the disagreement of the kids. “I’ve put a bit of everything on mine; it’s a secret recipe. They will probably keep it on the menu and call it the ‘Ashley Williams Perfect Pizza’.’’

With the pizzas well and truly polished off, the kids rally around to thank Ashley “for making their day” and talk slowly turns back to WillsWorld and its growing success.

"I've always wanted to give something back to the community and to help others,’’ he adds.

“Now I am in a position where I feel I have a great opportunity to help. It's nice to put football in a positive light as most people don't like to see the good side. But, believe it or not, most of us are good lads!"

"We are just the same as other people in any job. I like to help people out and make them feel good. I get a good feeling from that.

"I'd like to do charity work now while I'm still current rather than when I retire. People may think I'm a role model, but I don't see myself like that, I'm just me."

"But I hope what I'm doing connects me with more people across Swansea, Wales and the rest of the UK. I’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline. A lot of people need help and I am trying to reach as many of them as I can. It’s all part of WillsWorld and when we can help some kids we will.’’

WillsWorld came to life last year when Ashley and his wife Vanessa decided to help out some kids who weren't going to receive any Christmas presents.

"We spoke to social services and the deal was that we brought the presents and they brought along the kids to the Liberty Stadium where Santa Claus was waiting to give them out.

"Then we did the Mr X Christmas Appeal with some of the other players in the squad; invited some children along to a game where I gave them a guided tour; took about 30 members of the Swansea Bravehearts - a pan-disability football club - to a wrestling show and helped raise £2,500 to repair Seion Newydd Chapel in Morriston."

To round things off, he is Patron of Street Football Wales, a project for people aged 16 and above who face social exclusion through the likes of homelessness, substance misuse and mental ill health; plus Patron for the Ethan Perkins Trust.

Ashley and Vanessa are planning more WillsWorld charity events throughout the year to bring a positive impact to deserving and under privileged children in the community.

The whole aim of the charity is for the public to contact Ashley directly through the online contact form on his new website www.willsworld.org.uk or on twitter via @ashwills84.