It’s fair to say life is moving rather quickly for 19-year-old Liverpool defender Rhys Williams.
The Preston-born centre-back, who joined the Reds’ academy at the age of 10, must have spent the summer thinking that, in a best-case scenario, he would be given a few opportunities to shine in the domestic cups this season.
But just under two months after he made his senior debut for the club in the 7-2 thumping of Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup, Liverpool’s mounting injury crisis means Williams may well become one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s teamsheet.
It certainly must seem another world away from his loan spell at National League North side Kidderminster Harriers last season.
Joe Gomez looks to have become the latest casualty in what is proving to be a rotten season for Liverpool’s medical team, and the England international looks set to join Vigil van Dijk on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
With Klopp’s two remaining senior centre-backs – Joel Matip and Fabinho – also injury prone, and with the transfer window closed for another few months, Williams looks set for something of a hasty promotion.
Not that it is likely to faze him.
Williams has already stepped up to the plate under huge pressure once this season, and put in a performance belying his young age in the 5-0 thumping of Atalanta in the Champions League last week.
After the game, Klopp revealed a talk he had had with Williams and his fellow academy graduate Curtis Jones ahead of kick-off – with his words appearing prophetic given the current situation.
“I asked Curtis and Rhys before the game against Atalanta whether when they were younger and played together, if they’d ever dreamt of situations like that,” Klopp revealed to Liverpoolfc.com
“Rhys said, ‘I didn’t… because Curtis was always so much better, so I don’t think we had the same dreams.’ Curtis said immediately, ‘But you are a centre-half and I couldn’t play centre-half.’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s true, you couldn’t play centre-half!’
“This night was even better than their dreams, so that was really nice. Now, let’s carry on with that.”
And “carry on with that” it looks like they will, with Jones also getting a lot more minutes than perhaps he was initially expecting at the start of this season.
Williams himself seemed scarcely able to believe what was happening to him after the Atalanta game, although he hinted he was hoping there would be more games of a similar significance to come soon for him.
“Well, I was hoping for an opportunity but I wasn’t hoping for it as good as this!” he said.
“It doesn’t get much better than a 5-0 away win to Atalanta, so I’m over the moon really.
“I’m happy the boss trusts me and I’m going to keep repaying his faith with performances and nights like this, so hopefully I keep getting an opportunity and keep doing everyone proud.”
So far Williams has barely put a foot wrong when called upon, but he will face further tough tests if, indeed, Klopp puts him in the team straight away, with the likes of Leicester, Ajax, Wolves and Tottenham all coming up before Christmas.
The Reds boss clearly has huge faith in the player, however, and praised the influence of elite development coach Vitor Matos for his role in Williams’ development.
Speaking about a previous injury crisis, Klopp said: “In that moment, Vitor came, ‘Yes, Rhys Williams. A big talent, he looks really promising and we should take him for training’ – and from the first moment he impressed.
“Before that, I hadn’t heard much about Rhys, to be honest, and so that’s what I call a big impact because it has helped us massively. He is a good kid on top of that, a proper Scouser.”
Sometimes players have to work hard for opportunities, sometimes those opportunities present themselves through luck, and sometimes it can be a mix of both.
In Williams case it certainly seems to be the latter, and he now has a huge chance to break through to the next level in football.
If he can seize it with both hands, he could well become Liverpool’s next cult hero.
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