AHEAD of Wales' crunch Round of 16 tie against Denmark, the Leader looks back at one the local stars on show.

Neco Williams, from Cefn Mawr, Wrexham, started his footballing journey aged just five when his talent was spotted by a Liverpool scout at a tournament where he was representing Cefn United's junior team.

Since then, the rise of the now 20-year-old has been a meteoric one.

Last week, the Liverpool full-back made his first start in a major tournament for Wales in the 1-0 defeat to Italy.

But how did he get there?

Neco previously told the Leader: "I was playing for my local team Cefn United at the time and I was at a tournament when three or four scouts came up to my dad asking about me and wanting me to go on trial.

“I was a striker then but then I became a right winger and then changed to right back when I was 16."

With about 12,000 boys currently housed in football club academies across the UK, and 99 per cent not making it as pros, Neco’s achievement at making it through to professional level is rare indeed.

But even rarer is two siblings making it as pros - which could soon be the case with Neco's 17-year-old brother, Keelan, currently completing a scholarship at Burnley FC after leaving Liverpool.

"Both of them are doing well - they’ve got good footballing genes, considering I only played for Cefn United,” Dad Lee said.

The Leader: Back then: Keelan Williams (right), pictured above and below at age of eight, was signed up by Liverpool FC, following in his big brother Neco's (left) footstepsBack then: Keelan Williams (right), pictured above and below at age of eight, was signed up by Liverpool FC, following in his big brother Neco's (left) footsteps

A former student at Ysgol Rhiwabon, Neco moved to Merseyside aged 15 to be closer to the academy set up.

“I don’t know many lads who’ve signed, so this is a big thing for me and the family,” he said.

“When I was 14 I moved to Liverpool and I had to leave my school in Ruabon to attend school in Rainhill.

“I took my GCSEs there and it was hard at the start but I had to just get used to it. I lived with house parents there with one other lad who is on the same team."

Neco made his first senior appearance for Liverpool in the dramatic 5-5 League Cup tie at home to Arsenal which the Reds won on penalties in October 2019.

Since then he has been a regular in the first team set up and has 12 Premier League appearances under his belt.

He made his senior Wales bow in a 1-0 win over Finland last year, and scored his goal in just second appearance - the winner against Bulgaria in the UEFA Nations League.

And come Saturday tea time, Neco will be hoping to play a part in Wales' huge last 16 tie against Denmark in Amsterdam.

The Leader: A young Neco and Keelan play together.A young Neco and Keelan play together.