Neco Williams sings for Wales as the Liverpool defender has fans chanting his name after a stellar performance against Albania in the final Euro 2020 warm-up game
Towards the end of a blood-curdling final warm-up match on Saturday, a new chant was heard from the ‘Red Wall’ fans of Wales. It was their equivalent of the legendary national anthem Yaya/Kolo Toure that Manchester City fans used to sing, only with the names of Neco and Jonny Williams.
‘Neco, Neco, Neco, Neco, Neco, Neco, Neco Williams…’ This was an outing to Baku, where Wales will face Switzerland on Saturday, and proof from the past week is that the young Liverpool defender will leave the all on the field in Azerbaijan.
His harsh early dismissal against France last week left him devastated, with teammates using pranks to help him get over it. On Saturday against Albania he was back on the right wing, playing with his head up and making things happen.
Friday 11 June
Saturday June 12
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Neco Williams impressed during Wales’ draw with Albania at Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday
The lad from Cefn Mawr, near Wrexham, has certainly had his share of challenges at Liverpool. Last but not least the stress fracture discovered in his spine on his first day of prep under Steven Gerrard’s Under-18s. While his contemporaries worked with the Liverpool legend, he was initially unable to even enter the gym.
He was part of the young squad that tied 5-5 with Arsenal and won on penalties – one night, the penultimate season, when Mesut Ozil revealed the small margin of error at the top level. Williams’ ball from the defense put pressure on 16-year-old Harvey Elliott. Within seconds, Ozil attacked and Bukayo Saka scored.
There was also the Champions League home defeat by Atalanta to a very young side last November and the mistake during a 7-2 hammer blow to Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup, which caused so much online abuse that Williams briefly deleted his Twitter account.
But Jurgen Klopp has always considered this part of the process. For Williams, one of the lasting memories of last season will be the sight of the manager hugging him after another young Liverpool side defeated Ajax to ensure their progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Williams provided the crucial assist for Curtis Jones that night.
It was because of Williams development that Ki-Jana Hoever left for Wolves to leverage the arrival of Diogo Jota last summer. Nuno Espirito Santo wanted Williams as part of the deal, but Klopp, who had offered him a five-year deal last August, was not interested. “Thank God Neco is here now,” he said.
It’s Williams’ flexibility that Wales interim manager Rob Page loves. He can play it on either side of the defense. He was a left-sided midfielder, the man who marked Paul Pogba before his dismissal against France.
He was at his best in the second half against Albania. Page’s favorite 3-5-2 didn’t work and it was when Cardiff City striker Kieffer Moore was introduced after the break that the team looked even.
The young Liverpool defender is sure to leave it all on the pitch in Azerbaijan
There was a glimpse of a combination that could pay a big dividend as Manchester City’s 21-year-old Matt Smith maneuvered the ball into Williams’ path in the second half. Williams’ strike was Wales’ best effort in a goalless game.
The debate in Wales this week will revolve around whether Moore should start against the Swiss, with Aaron Ramsey behind him.
Equally important is Williams’ effort on the right, in a system that gives him room to run against. Wales must take maximum advantage of the player everyone is singing about.