Ledley was called into the first team during the 2004'05 season, while still only 17. He made his debut in the League Cup, on 21 September 2004, coming on as a 63rd minute substitute in a 4-1 win over Milton Keynes Dons. He made his league debut the next month, on 16 October, in a 2-0 win over Rotherham United, again coming on as a substitute. Three days later he had his first start for the club in a 1-1 draw with Brighton, he had several chances to score during the match including a header that hit the woodwork. After the match, Cardiff's goalscorer, Lee Bullock said that Ledley had been brilliant in his first start; creating chances as well as having some himself. Manager Lennie Lawrence said that he thought Ledley hadn't been fazed at all by the occasion and didn't look like he was making his debut.
Ledley's first goal for Cardiff came, on 2 November, in a 4-1 victory over West Ham. He brought the ball down from a cross before beating the keeper, Stephen Bywater, with a right foot drive. After this match Ledley's manager and team mates were again full of praise for the youngster. Striker Paul Parry said that Ledley's goal was brilliant and with the way he had been playing, creating so many chances for himself, it was no surprise that he had gotten his first goal. Manager Lawrence also said that he was impressed with other aspects of Ledley's play. He thought that Ledley had shown incredible maturity during the match, saying that Ledley had, "an old head on a young pair of shoulders". He was also impressed with Ledley's positional play, pointing out how Ledley had tracked back late in the match to cut out a scoring opportunity for West Ham, when other defenders hadn't seen the danger. On 4 February he committed his future to Cardiff, signing a new long-term contract with the club. This was shortly after he had won a call up to the Wales under-21 squad. A month later he scored a vital goal, to earn three points for Cardiff as they beat Sheffield United 1-0. Ledley's season ended in April as he suffered a fractured metatarsal bone in training. Before this he had played 32 times for Cardiff and had also earned three Wales under-21 caps. His performances had provided a major boost for Cardiff in what was a poor season for them as they were in relegation trouble at the bottom of the Championship and were suffering financial troubles as well. Lawrence said that he hoped Ledley would stay at Cardiff for the next few seasons and that he wouldn't be surprised if the 18-year old earned a full Wales call-up in the near future.
Ledley's first goal of the 2005-06 season came in a 2-1 League Cup victory over Macclesfield Town. He scored the equaliser after the League Two side had taken the lead. A month later, on 18 October, he scored in Cardiff's 2-2 draw against Preston North End. Four days later Cardiff beat Crewe 6-1, with Ledley scoring the second to put them 2-1 up shortly after half time. Cardiff had been tipped for relegation at the start of the season but this victory put them on the verge of the play-off places. Ledley's fourth goal of the season came in a 2-1 victory over Southampton on 31 December.
Ledley scored in the first match of the 2006'07 season, the opener in a 2-1 win over Barnsley. He then scored several weeks later, as Cardiff beat fellow promotion contenders Birmingham City, 2-0, to move top of the table. At this match Cardiff had a full stadium, 20,000 fans, for the first time in over 45 years. This signalled their growing momentum in the league and the belief within the club that they were able to get promoted. Ledley was identified as one of the key players in Cardiff's team, his pace on the left wing being vital to their tenacious style of play. On 25 September, Ledley scored in a 3-0 win over Southend United to confirm Cardiff's status as early season favourites. Cardiff entered the FA Cup at the third round and drew Tottenham Hotspur. The match ended 0-0 but Ledley had an excellent chance to put Cardiff in the lead after 55 miuntes, he got on the end of a cross but hit his shot just over the bar. The match went to a replay and Tottenham won 4-0 at White Hart Lane on 17 January. On 2 February Ledley suffered a hamstring injury in a 2-0 win ove Barnsley. At the end of the season he picked up the Football League goal of the season award for his strike against Barnsley.
Ledley began the 2007'08 season in great form and earned several man of the match awards in the first four months and in October 2007 he signed a two-year extension to his current contract at Cardiff. In December 2007, Wolverhampton Wanderers offered a reported £2.5 million, which could go up to as much as £3.5 million with add-ons, to Cardiff for Ledley. Cardiff offered the deal to Ledley who turned the move down in order to stay with the Bluebirds. Premier League side Everton were also known to have taken an interest in him, reportedly considering making an offer of £3.5 million. At the time, Cardiff valued him at a reported £5 million. Despite the speculation about his transfer Ledley himself stated that he was desperate to stay at Cardiff but concedes that he may have no choice should a high offer be made. Everton attempted a second move for Ledley at the end of the January transfer window, reportedly beating Wolves' previous £3m move, but the move was rejected by Cardiff. His form continued into February and early March before a hamstring injury forced him to miss several games, including Cardiff's 2'0 FA Cup Quarter Final victory over Middlesbrough. He returned to the side in time for the Semi Final against Barnsley where he scored the only goal to send Cardiff to their first Final since 1927, a goal which later earned him 'Player of the Round'. Cardiff went on to lose in the Final to Portsmouth. As well as his exploits in the FA Cup, the year was also Ledley's most prolific goalscoring year for the club as he finished joint top scorer with a total of 11 goals in all competitions.
During the 2008 summer transfer window, recently promoted Premier League side Stoke City offered Cardiff £5m to sign Ledley, which Cardiff turned down. On 1 September 2008, the final day of the summer transfer window Stoke made a second bid, reported to be around £6m, but this too was firmly rejected by Cardiff. On 7 October, Ledley was named Welsh clubman of the year for the second consecutive year. He scored his first goal of the 2008'09 season during a 2'1 win over Crystal Palace on 15 November when he fired in after returning to the pitch after receiving treatment due to a dislocated finger. The injury later required surgery and Ledley was expected to be out for around one month but managed to return in time to play against Swansea City, with his finger in a cast,
in the first league meeting between the two sides for nine years and scored with a left footed volley as the game ended 2'2, a goal which later earned him the club's goal of the season award. In his next game after the South Wales derby, on 6 December, with captain Darren Purse dropped and vice-captain Stephen McPhail suspended, Ledley, at the age of just 21, captained Cardiff for the first time in a 2'0 win over Preston North End. His performances in the absence of McPhail, which later earned him the Championship player of the month award for January, meant that he kept the Irish international out of the side as he continued as stand in captain, including a 0'0 draw with Arsenal in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The January transfer window saw increased speculation about Ledley's future and Cardiff turned down two bids from Premier League sides West Ham United, who saw an offer of £5m turned down, and Wigan Athletic, who had a bid of £4m and former Cardiff player and Wales international Jason Koumas rejected. He remained captain of the side for the rest of the season and at the end of the year was included in the 2008'09 Championship Team of the Year, along with teammate Roger Johnson.
With only one year left on his contract, the end of the season saw increased speculation over his future, mostly from Hull City, whose manager Phil Brown attended the Bluebirds pre-season friendly against Celtic. Despite the speculation over his future, Ledley remained with Cardiff and played 45 minutes of the first ever competitive match at the Cardiff City Stadium, before being substituted at half-time due to illness. In the third league match of the season, Ledley made his 200th league appearance for Cardiff in a 3'1 win over Plymouth Argyle. On 2 September 2009 Ledley was offered a new four-year contract by Cardiff, which was later rejected. During a 3'1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on 26 September 2009, Ledley was sent off for the first time in his career after two bookable offences. Following a poor run of results by Cardiff during November 2009, Ledley was the focus of criticism over his performances, most notably from Cardiff chairman Peter Ridsdale who commented that, due to his ongoing contract talks, Ledley was "playing like he is somewhere else already".
However, Ledley received backing from both Cardiff manager Dave Jones and club captain Mark Hudson, before later stating that he needed surgery on a hip injury that had plagued him for the previous three months and subsequently hindered his performances. On 9 December, Cardiff confirmed that Ledley needed a hip operation before the end of the season. He scored his first goal of the season on 28 December with the opener against Peterborough United, and 17 minutes later he scored again with a header. On 29 January 2010, Ledley underwent surgery on his hip problem which was expected to rule him out for the rest of the season, but made an early return as a substitute during a 2'1 win over Swansea City. On 17 April, Ledley scored against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road to ensure Cardiff a 1'0 win and also a Championship Play-Off place for that season. He scored in the 36th minute of the Play-off Final against Blackpool on 22 May during a 3'2 defeat. Ledley's contract expired at the end of the season and he moved to Scottish Premier League club Celtic. Ledley's transfer to a team playing outside the English Football League system meant that Cardiff did not receive any compensation for the transfer.
Out of contract at the end of the 2009'10 season, Ledley entered into talks with several clubs, including Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and AS Roma, before eventually joining Scottish Premier League side Celtic on a four year contract on 12 July 2010.He made his competitive debut for the club on 28 July in a 3'0 defeat to Braga in the first leg of the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, before making his SPL debut two weeks later in a 1'0 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He scored his first goal for Celtic against St Mirren in a 4'0 home victory in the SPL. On 6 November 2010 Ledley added another to his tally against Aberdeen in a league record 9'0 victory.On 16 March 2011, Ledley scored both Celtic goals in a 2'1 Scottish Cup win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. On 20 March 2011, Ledley scored in the League Cup Final defeat to Rangers. A hamstring injury sustained in a league game against Rangers on 24 April 2011 ruled him out of action for the rest of that season.
Ledley played in Celtic's first game of the 2011-12 season. A 2-0 win over Hibernian. On 13 August he scored in a 5-1 win over Dundee United. On 10 September, he scored in a 4-0 victory over Motherwell. He then played in Celtic's 2-0 defeat against Atlético Madrid. But was left out of the first Old Firm match of the season. He was then back in the team for Celtic's 2-0 Scottish League Cup victory over Ross County. On 24 September, he opened the scoring in Celtic's 2-0 win over Inverness. Five days later he started in Celtic's 1-1 draw with Italian team Udinese. He played at left back but had to come off at half time due to a groin injury. On 21 October, he scored a clever backwards header from a free-kick to give Celtic a 1-1 draw against Stade Rennais. Celtic had previously lost 27 of their last 31 European matches away from home. Ledley scored Celtic's winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Rangers in December 2011 and followed that up with another goal against Hearts in February 2012, before scoring again three days later against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Ledley's first call-up to the Wales under-21 squad came midway through the 2004-05 season. At 17 he had begun to play in Cardiff City's first team and by the end of the season he had earned three under-21 caps, still only aged 18. His manager at Cardiff Lennie Lawrence said that he expected Ledley to be getting a full Wales call-up very shortly. In May, Wales manager John Toshack, when talking about the impact of captain Ryan Giggs retiring, said that he was hopeful for the future because Ledley along with other left-sided youngsters Gareth Bale and Lewin Nyatanga were all very talented players who could play for the national team for years to come.
Ledley played at several youth levels for Wales as a youngster eventually winning his first senior Wales cap in an away World Cup qualifying match against Poland on 7 September 2005. His first international goal came against San Marino in a Euro 2008 qualifier on 17 October 2007.
In 2008 Ledley, along with a number of other full Wales internationals, was called back into the Wales U21 squad in a bid to help the team qualify for the U21 championships, only for a back injury to rule him out. On 29 May 2009, with a number of first team players missing from the side, Ledley was named as captain of Wales' youngest ever side for the 1'0 win over Estonia and Wales' 2010 World Cup qualifying match against Azerbaijan in Baku.
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