After being released from West Bromwich Albion as a teenager, he played for non-league side Hednesford Town before turning professional at Stockport County in 2003, later becoming their captain. In March 2008, he was loaned to Swansea City, and after helping them win League One, signed for a club record £400,000. He amassed 352 games for the Swans, scoring 14 goals. He aided them in their promotion to the Premier League and their victory in the 2013 Football League Cup Final. In August 2016, he signed a three-year contract with fellow Premier League side Everton.
Born in England, Williams qualifies to play for Wales through his maternal grandfather. He made his debut for them in March 2008 and has since earned over 70 caps. He captained the team at UEFA Euro 2016 where The Dragons made it all the way to the semi-final, losing 2–0 to Portugal who were the eventual winners.
Born in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, Williams began his career at West Bromwich Albion as a youth player but was released by the club at 16. He went on to play for non-league Hednesford Town, before joining Division Two side Stockport County in 2003. Williams later became captain of Stockport, and was still at the club when he made his international debut. In November 2007, Williams won both the inaugural North-West League Two Player of the Year Award and the North-West Player of the Year Award.
In March 2008, Williams signed for Swansea City on loan until the end of the 2007–08 season, with a view to a permanent move. After helping Swansea win the League One title and, with it, promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time in 24 years, the move was made permanent for a reported £400,000 – a club record transfer fee at the time.
On 16 September 2008, Williams scored his first Swansea goal in a 1–1 draw against Derby County. The defender impressed during his first season at Championship level, eventually going on to be named the 'Wales Footballer of the Year' at an FAW awards dinner in November 2009. Williams also picked up the 'Clubman of the Year' award at the same event.
After finishing in eighth position during their first Championship campaign, Swansea improved on their position by one place the following season, missing out on a play-off position by a single point. Williams was part of a defence that conceded only 37 goals during that campaign, and was selected in the 2009–10 Championship PFA Team of the Year at the end of the season.
The 2010–11 season saw Swansea and Williams gain promotion to the Premier League via a play-off final win at Wembley. Williams was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year for the second consecutive season. The season also saw him equal and surpass a club record of 106 consecutive matches, previously jointly held by Andy Legg and Gilbert Beech.
Swansea's first Premier League season began with a 4–0 loss at eventual champions Manchester City, but the club went on to finish the season in eleventh place. On 24 September 2011, Williams scored his first ever Premier League goal in a 4–1 loss at Chelsea, after heading in a Mark Gower free kick.
In October 2012, Williams signed a new three-year contract with Swansea. The club's second season in the Premier League saw a ninth-placed finish and a first major trophy win in English football for Williams and Swansea, following a 5–0 win over Bradford City in the 2013 League Cup final on 24 February 2013. After captaining the team during the final at Wembley, Williams lifted the trophy with club captain Garry Monk, who had come on as a second-half substitute.
In July 2013, after acting as captain for the majority of Swansea's games during the previous two seasons, Williams was handed the club captaincy on a permanent basis after Monk stepped down from the role. On 4 July 2014, Williams signed a new four-year contract with Swansea. On 19 April 2015, he was selected in the Team of the Decade at the Football League Awards.
On 10 August 2016, Williams joined Everton on a three-year deal for £12 million. He made his debut ten days later as a substitute in a 2–1 win against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns, and three days after that he made his first start for Everton, in a 4–0 EFL Cup win at home to Yeovil. Williams scored his first Everton goal with an 86th-minute header to secure a 2–1 win over Arsenal on 13 December 2016.
Williams qualifies for the Wales national football team through his maternal grandfather Bill Rowlands from Gelli in Rhondda. He made his international debut on 26 March 2008, two days before securing his move to Swansea City. In the game, he played the full 90 minutes for John Toshack's men in their 2–0 friendly away win in Luxembourg, making an early error through a poor backpass to goalkeeper Lewis Price, but recovered possession in time.
On 1 April 2009, Williams scored an own goal in a 2–0 loss to Germany in qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, deflecting Mario Gómez's cross at the Millennium Stadium. He captained the country for the first time on 14 November, in a 3–0 friendly win over Scotland at the Cardiff City Stadium. On 11 October 2010, he scored his first international goal in a 5–1 friendly win over Luxembourg in Parc y Scarlets, finishing a header from debutant Steve Morison.
In October 2012, Williams was appointed captain of Wales by Chris Coleman, replacing Aaron Ramsey. Coleman, who by that point had not won in his four games, gave the armband to Williams on account of his experience over the younger Ramsey. The decision was criticised by Raymond Verheijen, assistant to Coleman's predecessor Gary Speed.
On 31 May 2016, he was named in Coleman's 23-man squad for Euro 2016, Wales' first major tournament for more than half a century. On 1 July in Lille, Williams headed the equalising goal, against Belgium in the quarter-finals as Wales eventually won 3–1 to progress to the semi-finals for the first time in their international football history. In the semi-final, Wales lost 2–0 to Portugal with both goals coming in the opening ten minutes of the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani respectively.
In his time at Hednesford Town, Williams supported himself with various jobs including at a petrol station, as a waiter at Beefeater, and running a sideshow at Drayton Manor.
In December 2010, Williams established the charity WillsWorld with his wife Vanessa, with a view to helping under-privileged children. He is also a patron of Street Football Wales which fights social exclusion, and the Ethan Perkins Trust, which raises funds for research, support and awareness into childhood brain tumours.
Williams was a Liverpool fan as a child and his favourite player was John Barnes. He also likes basketball and supports the Miami Heat.As of match played 23 September 2017
As of match played 5 September 2017
As of match played 5 September 2017. Wales score listed first, score column indicates score after each Williams goal.
Swansea CityChampionship play-offs: 2010–11
League Cup: 2012–13
The Football Manager Team of the Decade: 2015