Liverpool coach Gary O’Neil thinks teen sensation Rhys Williams can make his mark in Jurgen Klopp’s first team after an impressive Champions League debut against Midtjylland, speaking to BBC Football Daily Podcast.
Talk about a rapid rise.
A matter of months after he was throwing himself into tackles in the seventh tier of English football during a loan spell at Kidderminster Harriers, the 19-year-old was pulling on the famous red shirt of Liverpool and taking a seat at Europe’s top table.
With Fabinho joining Virgil van Dijk on the treatment table, Klopp threw Williams in at the deep end on Tuesday night.
And his faith was rewarded with a fine performance in a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Danish champions Midtjylland.
O’Neil, who has worked closely with Williams since joining the Liverpool coaching staff in August, wasn’t surprised, however, to see the England U21 international step up.
“I think it’s always unknown how (young players) will cope when they’re thrown in at such a high level,” the former Portsmouth captain said.
“But what (Williams) has been equipped with from all his years in the academy is really good fundamentals.
“He knows the game. He’s a really good defender.
“He was sent out on loan to Kidderminster last year to learn the more physical side of it. Playing first-team football, having to head things and play against fully grown men who are competing for win bonuses and points. (The Liverpool staff) felt he had come on a lot.
“He takes everything in his stride. He’s got some fantastic, experienced pros in that squad who could be key to making him feel part of it.
“I think he’ll do absolutely fine.”
Williams certainly isn’t getting ahead of himself.
The teenager dropped back into the U23 squad on Saturday and produced an instrumental performance in Liverpool’s 3-1 Premier League 2 victory over Chelsea, capping a fine display with a rare goal.
However, this weekend’s clash with in-form West Ham will provide an entirely different test.