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This will be the pinnacle of my career... so soon after such a low.

Byline: MARK CURRIE

AARON RAMSEY survived his first press conference as the youngest Wales captain in history yesterday with his reputation enhanced after thanking his family and fans for helping him to achieve a childhood ambition.

The 20-year-old Arsenal midfielder was a surprise choice for the armband ahead of a first competitive match for Wales manager Gary Speed, and the Cardiff-born youngster could barely conceal his pride at the prospect of leading out the team against England at a sell-out Millennium Stadium this afternoon.

"I feel over the moon and I'm honoured to be captain of my country at such a young age," he said.

"Ever since I was a boy I wanted to become a professional footballer and captain my country one day and now that this day has come it's a very special moment for me and my family.

"Obviously my Mum and Dad drove many miles and spent a great deal of time to help to get me where I am today so I'd like to thank them as well.

"It's probably one of the biggest games you could play and I guess it will be a special occasion for me to lead the team in front of a full house at home and against England."

What Ramsey describes as the best moment to date of his career has come little more than 12 months after his worst - a double fracture of the leg sustained in a Premier League match at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium in February 2010.

"It shows the highs and lows of football," he added.

"I broke my leg just over a year ago now and it was a really low time for me, but now this is the best moment of my career so far. It's amazing how quickly things can turn around.

"I've been through a lot in the past year and I've had to be mentally strong to get here.

"Obviously I could not have done that without the support of my family and friends and also all the messages I got from fans around the world.

"I think I have benefited from that and I've grown up a lot during that period."

Ramsey brushed aside a suggestion that he was too young captain his country, although he acknowledged that other contenders, notably Craig Bellamy, James Collins, Danny Gabbidon and Ashley Williams had all done the job under former manager John Toshack.

"It was a bit of a surprise, but a very nice one and I'm happy Gary has given me this opportunity," he said.

"Hopefully now I can lead by example in the way I play. We know I'm not a screamer or a shouter, but it's not just about me because there are 10 other players who could easily be captain.

"There's a lot of experience throughout the team and players like Craig Bellamy who have been captain before so they won't need to be told what to do.

"I've made over 50 appearances for one of the biggest clubs in the world and I've played at a high level already in my career, but I'm not going to change the way I am.

"I think with the way I play I can help the team and, although some people may disagree, me and Gary Speed thought it was the right decision and hopefully we'll prove that to be the case.

"I've always wanted to be captain one day, I didn't expect it to come so soon but hopefully now I'll do it for many years."

This afternoon's Group G European Championship qualifier provides Wales with an opportunity to restore some battered pride after successive defeats to Bulgaria, Montenegro and Switzerland, while victory for England would see them go top of the group.

But, although Wales' chances haven't been helped by the loss of Tottenham ace Gareth Bale, who has been sidelined by a hamstring strain, Ramsey is undaunted.

"Obviously Gareth will be a massive loss but we have other players who can come in and I'm sure whoever comes in will do more than a good job," he added.

"It's a blow but we still have quality and it's not just about one player. It's a team game and we'll come together as a team.

Every game I go into is one I think I can win and this is no different and hopefully we will prove that.

"We know as a team what we are capable of doing and we'll go into the game thinking we can get a positive result. Everyone knows their roles, so there won't be much said beforehand. We have got to go out and enjoy the game and hopefully pick up a positive result.

"I read someone in the England camp said that form goes out of the window on an occasion like this and I'd agree with that. It's a massive game, a derby in a way, so both teams are going to give it everything to try and win the game."

Ramsey's last Wales outing came in November 2009 against Past Scotland, when the Arsenal midfielder scored as he masterminded a comfortable 3-0 victory.

Asked about the potential for a repeat this afternoon, he said: "Hopefully, yes. I think that was a very good team performance and getting a goal was good for me personally.

captain "But it was a complete display and we kept a clean sheet as well, so it would be nice to do that again. I had a good performance on the day and hopefully I'll have another one tomorrow."

CAPTION(S):

Past Wales captain Ashley Williams New Wales captain Aaron Ramsey lies in pain after breaking his leg in the challenge from Ryan Shawcross (top left), letting fly with a shot against Scotland in his last outing for Wales (left) and celebrating scoring for his country with Ched Evans (above) Aaron Ramsey faces the press yesterday as newly appointed Wales captain ahead of today's Euro 2012 qualifier with England
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Mar 26, 2011
Words:994
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