NECO WILLIAMS has been tipped to keep Liverpool’s all-action full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold on his toes.

Alexander-Arnold is closing in on 100 appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s Premier League champions in waiting despite being just 21.

Throw in nine England caps and Alexander-Arnold’s rise has been hugely impressive, but Wrexham-born Williams is capable of causing his colleague to keep looking over his shoulder.

The 19-year-old has made five cup starts this term for the Reds and academy director Alex Inglethorpe is convinced Williams has what it takes to make the grade at Anfield after witnessing his eye-catching Premier League debut off the bench against Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

“Neco has been a slow burner,” Inglethorpe told The Athletic. “Being a right-back is still a relatively new experience for him, as up until the under-15s/under-16s he played as a winger.

“He’s a quick learner and such a great lad. He takes everything in his stride. He’s a good boy. He’s never caused anyone at the academy a moment’s bother. He’s someone you want to be successful.

“In Neco’s mind, he won’t see himself as just there to make up the numbers. He’s quiet and unassuming but he’s also a very determined young man.

“He will put pressure on Trent, I’ve got no doubt about that. I’d be very disappointed in Neco if he didn’t do that and I’d be disappointed in Trent if he didn’t recognise that.”

Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott are likely to be at the front of the queue when Klopp dishes out further game time with one eye on the future once Liverpool have wrapped up the title.

With five substitutes permitted per-game and matches being playing behind-closed-doors, it seems like the perfect environment for the club’s rising stars to flourish.

“True, but I do think there’s a counter-argument,” Inglethorpe says. “Usually, when you play at Anfield, you have the crowd right behind you and that’s massive, especially for the younger players. That’s something that you can’t underestimate, not having that sheer force of people wanting you to do well and succeed. I know they will miss that, but they are ready and I believe in them.

“They have all spent time at Melwood and they know what it’s like to train in a senior environment. They want to experience that buzz of playing for that meaningful three points. You can’t pick and choose when your chance comes. That’s the beauty of football. It might be in unfamiliar circumstances, like Premier League football behind-closed-doors. One thing we try to teach our young players is the ability to adapt to different situations.”

And while Williams, Jones and Elliott are proof that youngsters don’t need to go out on-loan to bridge the gap between academy and senior football, another Wrexham-born ace, Harry Wilson, is one of several rising stars making their mark away from Anfield.

Wilson has impressed out on-loan with Bournemouth, while Rhian Brewster (Swansea) and Nat Phillips (Stuttgart) are also benefitting from regular match action.

“Harry Wilson has proven that he can play in the Premier League. I hope that in time he proves that he can play for Liverpool too,” Inglethorpe said.

“Not every player will have the ability to go straight into the first team in the way that Trent has done. It’s about knowing when the moment is right for certain players to go away and gain valuable experience. The manager is a good judge of when they need to go out. They couldn’t be in better hands than with Jurgen.”

And while those named above are the first cabs off the rank should injury deprive the first team of regular members, there is always plenty more talent coming through at a club like Liverpool.

Left-back Owen Beck, raised in Flintshire, is one of a host of scholars to sign a first professional contract during lockdown.

“Most of the boys had decisions about their futures prior to the lockdown so there was some comfort in that they knew the direction they would be going in,” said Inglethorpe, who has been keeping the academy players occupied.

“There was an initial push to get structure in the boys’ lives and make sure they had a daily routine,” he says. “That was especially important for the older boys because they are used to getting up every day and this being their job. We did that and we’ve continued to do that with the older age groups.

“The under-18s and under-23s all have individual fitness and technical programmes to keep to. They all have that desire to stay fit and sharp because they know they’re lucky enough to be at a club which gives youngsters opportunities. They know there’s a huge incentive to keep doing their job, even though their job currently looks very different to how it looked a few months ago. They have to remain ready should the first team need them at any stage.

“For the younger boys, it’s been more of a challenge to get that balance right. We talk a lot about building resilience in children and teaching them to overcome obstacles and proving themselves in difficult moments.”