Aaron Ramsey: Wales midfielder putting smiles back on Cardiff City faces

Aaron Ramsey has played in bigger games, but has rarely worn bigger smiles.

And, according to Cardiff City manager Erol Bulut, the midfielder seemingly has bigger plans than treating his return to his boyhood club as a retirement plan.

Images of the Wales captain joyously celebrating leading Cardiff to a first win over rivals Swansea City in five attempts on Saturday night backed Bulut's assertions.

In some ways, you could forgive the 32-year-old for thinking the bragging rights of a south Wales derby would be beneath him.

After all, he has scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final as part of his hat-trick of wins in the competition, won the Serie A title with Juventus.

And the common consensus has been that going back to Cardiff - and dropping into the Championship - was by and large down to wanting to re-root his family in the area he calls home.

Ramsey has not denied family had been a big factor in decisions made after leaving French club Nice, including turning down interest and the inevitable big wages from Saudi Arabia.

But he also claimed soon after his second coming as a Cardiff player that he did not want his time back with the Bluebirds to be a token gesture to wind down his career.

He wanted, he said, to "come back while I still feel like I can perform and help this team". On Saturday night Ramsey did just that.

There were the obvious moments of skill that you would expect of someone who wore the shirts of Arsenal and Juventus, but also a drive that propelled Cardiff into a momentum Swansea eventually had no answer for. No player had more dribbles, no player looked more influential.

It was what Cardiff fans had hoped for when he signed, that they would see Ramsey the player and not just the name. It was what Bulut had expected.

"Everybody thinks Aaron Ramsey only came back to be at home. It's not like that," said Bulut after Cardiff's win, the second in the league since he replaced Sabri Lamouchi over the summer.

"I had a meeting with him before he signed and I realised he wants to make something here, make some difference.

"You can see it, working on the pitch, running, fighting to have wins with his teammates, it's great to have him here and work with him."

There would have been plenty of personal satisfaction for Ramsey in the evening. His goal from the penalty spot with four minutes of normal time remaining was his third this season, but still marked a milestone.

The teenage Ramsey had never scored at Ninian Park while with Cardiff the first time around, while his only goals at Cardiff City Stadium have come in the red of Arsenal or Wales.

This one was very much in blue, putting right a derby record Ramsey admitted after the game was far too long in being balanced back towards Cardiff after Swansea's four wins in a row.

"One hundred percent it's for nights like this why Aaron Ramsey wanted to come back," said former Wales teammate and Cardiff defender Danny Gabbidon. "You knew he'd be up for it, and he showed that with moments of class."

Of composure too.

"Before the game he just said to stay calm first and foremost which we did," said goalkeeper Jak Alnwick. "Having his experience of the levels he's played at, the derbies he's played in, having him and big characters like him, is important for us."

Ramsey said in post-match interviews that supporters deserved more from derbies than they have been given with just one home win in 10 years, and the connection he has with the club's fans is another example of why this move - so far - has looked far from being just a romantic return.

As Cardiff pushed for a second-half breakthrough and sensing a lull, Ramsey visibly geed up teammates and those in the terraces.

Videos from the dressing room showed him leading the percussion on the kit bins as striker Yakou Meite delivered victory songs.

After the game, as he has done all season, he stayed for selfies and to sign autographs as young supporters eagerly awaited the chance to spend a few moments with a player that has given Cardiff renewed hope after two years fighting relegation to the third tier.

For a club that has seen plenty of gnashing of teeth over recent years, Ramsey showed again on Saturday why he is now leading the smiles worn by all.