When Russ met Luke – again

Russell Martin says he wishes nothing but the best for new Swansea City head coach Luke Williams – but only after Southampton have left his old club with all the points on Saturday afternoon.

Martin returns to the Swans for the first time since leaving to take charge of promotion-chasing Saints last summer

The former Swans boss knows Williams well as the current man in charge used to be Martin’s assistant at the Swansea.com Stadium.

In fact, Williams spent time as Martin’s assistant at both Swansea and MK Dons before going on to manage Notts County.

Southampton are third in the Championship and undefeated in their past 20 games in all competitions, including a 5-0 win at home to Swansea prior to Williams’ appointment.

Martin said: “I’m really pleased for Luke, he did a great job at Notts County.

“It’s a really good move for him and for Swansea. The style of play fits. He knows the people there and they know him.

“He knows how brilliant a club it is. It might change the mood around the club when we go there.

“It will add a bit extra for everyone. My overriding feeling for him and Ryan Harley – who helped me in my first six months at MK Dons – is one of happiness.

“We have stayed friends. We were teammates and Ryan helped me a huge amount when I first became a manager.

“I hope it goes really well (for them) after they have played against us.”

Williams has recorded a win over Morecambe in the FA Cup and a draw against Birmingham in the league in his first two games in charge.


Ramsey near return

For Cardiff City there is good news on Aaron Ramsey who is on the mend and has taken his first steps back after picking up a knee injury in training way back in September.

He won’t be ready for the Bluebirds’ trip to Plymouth on Saturday, but having already suffered one set-back on his road to recovery, which has meant he has so far missed four months of football and 23 games in all competitions for Cardiff, the Wales skipper is now hopeful of returning in time for the Euro Championship play-off game against Finland in March.

“Aaron trained with us for the first time. It was only the first part, not total training, and we have to go step by step,” said City boss Erol Bulut.

“We will see how he is and then next week he will be more involved in sessions.

“When he is back, his team-mates are happy, we are happy to see him back. We will be even happier if Callum O’Dowda comes back so we can have our offensive players back and have a full squad.

“We only have 15 fit players for the game against Plymouth at the weekend. Joe Ralls will miss the next two games and we have to see if Rubin Colwill is fit to play after picking up a knee injury against Leeds.”

Bulut has at least turned the Bluebirds into a far more competitive side this season after they finished just one place outside the relegation zone last season and has been hoping for backing from his board to bring in much needed recruits in the January transfer window.


The North-South divide

There’s a north-south Welsh derby at Rodney Parade on Saturday, where Newport County host high-flying Wrexham in League Two.

For once, the focus is on the home team more than the Hollywood-backed visitors as the following week Newport will enjoy one of the biggest games in their history as Manchester United come calling in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Wrexham are second in the league, two points behind Stockport County, having played a game fewer.

Newport are mid-table after an inconsistent league campaign, but one that reflects well enough on manager Graham Coughlan who is operating on meagre resources this season.

The County boss has warned his players not to have any part of their attention on their glamour FA Cup tie – and warned there will be consequences if they do.

“We’ve all been players, we all know the script,” said Coughlan.

“If you don’t play well tomorrow [Saturday] you don’t give yourself a great opportunity of playing next week.

“With all due respect to tomorrow’s opponents, it’s all about us, it’s about what we do about how we prepare, how we go about our business and performance levels.

“If you don’t perform [against Wrexham] and don’t go about your business well, then you give yourself a little bit of a headache all next week going into the next game, irrespective of who the next game is.”