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'Should do absolutely fine': Liverpool academy coach tips 19-year-old talent for first-team success

Liverpool Under-23s assistant coach Gary O’Neil has tipped Rhys Williams to do “absolutely fine” in the Reds first team.

This time last season, the 19-year-old Liverpool academy graduate was turning out for Kidderminster, having joined the non-league outfit on an initial half-season loan.

Williams impressed at Aggborough, earning himself an extension in January, but returned to Anfield after the National Leagues were curtailed in wake of the global health crisis.

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A long-term contract extension at Liverpool followed in September, and to date, he has made four senior appearances for the Reds, including two in the Champions League.

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After his cameo late on against Ajax last week, Williams came on for the injured Fabinho in the Midtjylland game and put in a composed performance.

“It’s always an unknown how youngsters will cope at such a high level of the game,” O’Neil told BBC Radio 5 Live (27/10, 22:39).

“Rhys Williams’ years at the academy has given him good fundamentals, he’s a good defender.

“He was on loan at Kidderminster last year and he had a lot of tools from academy football, but playing at a team like that will give you more game time and probably toughen you up a bit.

“Injuries have accelerated his involvement with the first team. I’d like to think he can take it in his stride.

“When young lads are thrown in and haven’t played at this level before you’re never sure until you see it, but I think he should do absolutely fine.”

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Credit to Williams for his hard work throughout the past 18 months, impressing at Kidderminster and then wowing the coaches at Liverpool, culminating in first-team minutes.

The England youth international is a tall, commanding defender who’s great in the air and composed on the ball – all the traits needed to succeed in the game.

And with Virgil van Dijk sidelined and Fabinho awaiting a scan, he could be in line for a lot more game time in the coming weeks.

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