The 20-year-old defender has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2020-21, with a string of injuries at Anfield working in his favour
Rhys Williams has admitted to receiving a message from Jurgen Klopp during a breakthrough campaign at Liverpool that left him “scared”, while also conceding that he felt “nervous” ahead of a shock Premier League debut for the Reds.
The 20-year-old defender first registered on a senior radar when making a competitive bow for the reigning champions in a Carabao Cup clash with Lincoln in September 2020.
He saw Champions League outings on the back of that, as injury problems mounted at Anfield, and now has 13 appearances to his name across all options – with the trust of a demanding coach being earned.
What has been said?
While Klopp has shown faith in Williams, he has told UMM on the fear that direct contact from the German still conjures up in those at his disposal: “I’d probably say the captain or maybe Virg [are the most active in the WhatsApp group chat].
“Obviously [Van Dijk] has not been playing with his injury, so before every game he is wishing all the boys good luck and stuff like that.
“And the skipper [Jordan Henderson] is the one who is always replying first.
“There was one [message] recently [from Klopp] – ‘can you come and see me please.’
“I was scared!
“But it was just to discuss some stuff that I could do better in games, so it was nothing to be worried about. But I was nervous.”
How has Williams fared this season?
Despite his lack of experience on the senior stage, the Anfield academy graduate has fared admirably after being thrown in at the deep end.
He has been providing cover for the likes of Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, with untimely knocks suffered by centre-back rivals seeing a door open for the youngster on a regular basis.
Williams added on seeing more game time that he had imagined this season, with a first Premier League appearance taken in against Tottenham on December 16: “I was nervous because I wasn’t starting at first, I was on the bench. And then Joel Matip was meant to play.
“He had a problem with his back, so the boss and the first-team coach come to me and said ‘be ready because you are starting, Joel has failed his fitness test.’
“So that was say five or six hours before training and I had to get my head together because that was my first game in the Premier League with [Harry] Kane and [Heung-min] Son up top.
“I was nervous but the boys helped me through it.”
The bigger picture
Klopp bolstered his defensive ranks in January with the additions of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak, while Fabinho has continued to slot in at centre-half when required.
Williams has taken in just one Premier League outing in 2021 as a result – a 1-0 defeat at Fulham – and the Reds are still in the process of trying to salvage a season that has them in danger of missing out on a top-four finish.