Rising Liverpool star Neco Williams believes the form that has put him on the radar of Ryan Giggs and Wales stems from the sky high standards he faces just to get a game at club level.
The Wales Under 18 international has been part of the first-team training set up on and off for the last 18 months or so and being close-up and personal with fellow right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold has helped him develop his game.
Williams, still only, 18 was man of the match in Tuesday night’s 1-0 FA Cup fourth-round replay win over League One Shrewsbury, achieved by a team with an average age of 19 years and 102 days.
It was the kind of performance that underlined why Williams is being talked about as a potential wild card for Wales and the Euro 2020 finals this summer – even though he has yet to play a single Premier league match.
Williams put his impact down to being around the likes of England star Alexander-Arnold and says: “He’s obviously one of the best right-backs in the world right now so every day I’m training with him I’m picking up little things each day and trying to bring it into my own game.
“Being there every day is a learning day for me and to train with one of the best teams in the world, if not the best team in the world right now, is going to make you a better player.
“Each day as it goes I don’t take for granted. I’m just grateful to be there every day.”
Williams has only represented his country at Under-19 level so far, but that is sure to change soon given his recent breakthrough excelling this season against Arsenal and Everton in the domestic cups.
Senior members of Wales’ technical staff have been monitoring his development closely, with Giggs left in no doubt Williams is worthy of consideration following a series of mature displays.
Wales have two friendlies scheduled next month, against Austria on March 27 and the United States on March 30. They might give Giggs an opportunity to take a closer look as he strives for a squad balancing youth and experience.
The focus before the match had been on manager Jurgen Klopp’s decision to absent himself and the first-team squad in order to respect the Premier League mid-season break.
But afterwards there was only talk of the impressive performances of a number of youngsters – including three debutants in the starting line-up – as the team dominated the statistics in every category.
“It was a special night for a lot of us, a night that we’ll remember for a long time especially the debutants,’ added Williams, whose long pass forward led to the decisive own goal by Ro-Shaun Williams.
“It just makes us want to win more. Whatever team plays out there at Anfield is going to give you a result like we did against Arsenal (a 5-5 Carabao Cup draw which they won on penalties), against Everton (1-0 in the last round of the FA Cup) and obviously now.
“I just think as soon as the whistle goes all your mind’s focused on is the game. All your thoughts go away and you’re just focused on the game and – like we showed – the boys are capable of winning games and obviously got the win.”
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge await in the next round and midfielder Pedro Chirivella, the veteran of the team at 22, hopes some, if not all, of this team are given another chance.
“From the day we knew we were playing, we prepared to win this game,’ he said.
“We showed that we are capable of beating Everton and Arsenal, and in the starting XI I think five or six players are training with the first team every single day, so we showed that we are ready to play.
“Mentally I feel ready. I train every day with the first team and I feel I am getting closer to the level.”