PETER ENCKELMAN played alongside Aaron Ramsey when he was just a teenager – but always knew that he was going to develop into a huge star.
And the Hearts goalkeeper warned Scotland that they will have to shackle the Arsenal playmaker if they are to come away from Cardiff with a positive result tonight.
Scotland travel to Wales for match day three of their Group A qualifying campaign for World Cup 2014, having drawn their opening two games against Serbia and Macedonia.
The weight of a country’s expectations rest heavily on Craig Levein’s shoulders but Enckelman knows that there’s not much the Scots can do about his former team-mate if he’s on his game. The late Gary Speed handed former Cardiff City midfielder Ramsey, pictured, the captaincy for his country at the age of just 20 and the midfielder filled that role for 18 months.
However it was announced last week that Swansea centre-back Ashely Williams will take over the armband from Ramsey as Wales boss Chris Coleman reacts to Wales’ 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Serbia.
But, having played in the same team as Ramsey at Cardiff, Enckelman is certain of the class his former team-mate possesses and expects him to again be at the centre of everything the Red Dragons create.
The Finn said: “When I first went to Cardiff he was only 17 years old but you could already see that he had something about him. I remember when we were playing a game in the FA Cup and he was on the bench.
“He had never played at right-back in his life but he was brought on as a substitute at right-back and he absolutely owned it for the half hour that he was on. He was always a central midfielder though and it was always a matter of time before he left.
“I am delighted for him at the move he got to Arsenal and it was probably one of the best clubs that he could have joined. He has captained the Wales team and is very much an integral part of his sides at club and international level. Even when he was younger he had a sensible head on his shoulders and knew what was right and wrong. He was always going to go far. He enjoys being involved with Wales and you can be sure that he is going to give 100 per cent in the game. He gives everything, especially for his country.”
Wales lie bottom of the group and are still looking for their first point of the campaign, having lost both of their matches so far.
However they still possess their fair share of quality players, Enckelman continuing: “When you think of the Wales side there are so many threats but this is a British derby and in games like that you just never know what can happen, form can go right out the window. Obviously if Scotland are going to get a good result down there then one of the main things that they will have to do is keep Ramsey quiet.”
Enckelman, who signed for Hearts in January, was given his first taste of first-team football last weekend when Jamie MacDonald was knocked unconscious in the league clash against Celtic at Parkhead.
While the circumstances were not ideal, Enckelman admitted that he is loving life at Tynecastle right now and added: “You always hope to be involved, that is what you strive for week after week. But I am under no illusions, obviously Jamie has been doing really well and I am delighted for him by the way that he has been playing.
“I am more than happy to work with him, the other goalies and with Alan Combe, the goalkeeping coach. We have a good group and at the moment I am really enjoying it.
“Jamie is experienced enough and obviously Alan has great experience too but it has been good working with the younger keepers as well, giving them some hints and tips. Mark Ridgers has been involved with the first-team but he is still a young pup and Jack Hamilton is there too. I only signed in August but it has been great.”