Ryan Giggs reveals Ashley Williams left fuming by axe from Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifying win over Slovakia

RYAN GIGGS admits Ashley Williams was left fuming by his bold decision to axe him for Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifying win over Slovakia.

Giggs dropped the out-of-favour Stoke defender, 34, and his big call was vindicated with a clean sheet in the home triumph settled by Dan James’ fifth-minute winner.

Ryan Giggs salutes the home fans at the Cardiff City Stadium after Wales got off to a flyer in Euro 2020 qualifying
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The Wales boss picked Chris Mepham and James Lawrence instead with Williams named as sub and Gareth Bale taking over the armband.

Giggs insists Williams remains Wales captain but said: “You’re never going to take it well. You don’t want players to take it well.

“The main thing was picking players who are playing regularly. It’s not easy leaving those experienced players out, it’s not easy at all.

“But it was the perfect start. A clean sheet and three points. I’m proud of the players.”

Williams replaced match-winner James for the final 18 minutes at the Cardiff City Stadium to win his 85th Welsh cap and draw level with Gary Speed.

Ashley Williams during the warm-up ahead of Wales’ win over Slovakia
Alamy Live News

And, while the Stoke centre-back was unhappy with Giggs’ selection, the Dragons manager hailed the 34-year-old veteran for his contribution in helping Wales get off to a flying start in Group E.

Giggs added: “He didn’t sulk. You’ve seen what he brought when he came on, his leadership qualities. Ash is still the captain. You never know from camp to camp who is playing regularly, who’s not and who is injured.

“It’s not a ruthless streak. It’s weighing up everything involved and trying to pick the right team and having the team physically right.”

Rookie boss Giggs, who was relieved at securing his biggest win since taking charge of his country 14 months ago, revealed his agony at plumping for his preferred option of Bournemouth’s Mepham and Lawrence of Anderlecht.

Gareth Bale then teased James by telling Wales’ match-winner: You’ve still got a way to go to be as quick as me!

The rapid Swansea winger gave Ryan Giggs’ side the perfect start to Euro 2020 qualifying with a fifth minute winner – his first goal for his country on only his second cap – in Cardiff.

But when asked how quick pacy wideman James is, Real Madrid ace Bale joked in a television interview: “Yeah, he’s got a bit to go…” before sticking his tongue out and laughing.

Bale added: “We always knew we could nick a goal and today it was Dan. It was a great strike. It was the perfect start and what we needed.

“In the second half we came under a lot of pressure but we started the game well. We got the early goal then shut up shop and we know how to do that.

“Everyone put in a shift and the fans were incredible. The Red Wall was there in pride.

“We gave them another win and it’s a good start to the qualifying campaign.

We need to keep that winning mentality and feeling going into the next games.” James, 21, tormented Manchester City’s defence in Swansea’s FA Cup defeat last weekend.

Dan James celebrates his first goal for Wales with Dragons legends Gareth Bale
AFP

And the Wales goalscorer continued his red-hot form by robbing Slovakia full-back Peter Pekarik and smashing the ball past Newcastle keeper Martin Dubravka.

James said: “It was a good start by getting that goal. Once I won it off him, I just popped it and the only thing I had in my head was to shoot and luckily it went in.

“It was a long afternoon. In the second half they had a lot of the ball but we did well. We had to dig in. The fans kept with us and we got the win in the end.” Giggs hailed James and said: “I’m delighted because his overall game was fantastic and to top it off with a goal was great.

“He’s brought his club onto the international stage. He was a threat all day. He will be with that pace but he’s got much more.

“He can go either side, he’s intelligent, he works hard. He just needs to carry on doing what he’s doing for Swansea.”

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