Neco Williams believes there's no better club than Liverpool at the moment for him to expand his footballing ability and medal collection.
The 19-year-old defender committed his future to the Reds today by putting pen to paper on a long-term contract while away in Austria for the first team's pre-season training camp.
Williams enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2019-20 as he made his senior debut in October before going on to make a further 10 appearances, lifting the Premier League and FIFA Club World Cup along the way.
After signing his new deal, the full-back sat down with Liverpoolfc.com for a wide-ranging interview that can be watched in full on LFCTV GO now.
Alternatively, read on below for the transcript.
Neco, congratulations on signing a new long-term contract with the club. How does it feel?
It feels amazing. At the minute for me, I think there is no better place to learn and to become a better player than being here and working with the lads. I think we’ve got some of the best players in the world and we’re one of the best teams in the world, so I think for me personally, especially learning off Trent and Robbo every day, getting their advice, seeing what they say, it’s only going to make me a better player. I feel it. I take it day by day and I am maturing in my game, I am developing as a player and, like I said, I don’t think there is a better place for me to work and keep going at it than here.
It’s been a crazy few months for you, hasn’t it? So what does it mean to now have this reward at the end of that?
Last season was my breakout season, but I think the more games I play now, the more I train, I feel I am becoming a better player. I feel I am developing a lot and, like I said before, learning off Trent and Robbo and getting their advice has helped me massively. In training I am learning from what they are doing, they are giving me advice on what to do attacking-wise and defensively. I am learning massively – there is no better place to be at the moment.
So it was an easy decision to sign, then?
Yeah, I’d say so. My aim at the moment is to try to close the gap between me and Trent and give the boss a decision to think about and give him a bit of a headache, but I know I have got a long way to go. I am only 19, I am learning and my aim is to keep working hard, to stay humble and hopefully this season I will keep getting the games in and the game time. That will only make me a better player.
How has the last nine months changed your life? Nine months ago you’d yet to play for the first team and now today, you’re sitting here with a new deal, a Premier League winner’s medal and also a winner’s medal in the FIFA Club World Cup. It must have changed quite a bit off the pitch for you…
Off the pitch, yes, it has changed, but I am still the lad I was two years ago, I am still exactly the same person. I am still humble and I know where I come from. Being with the senior squad now, out of football life does change a bit because you’re a role model to people now, so it is a bit different with fans coming up to you and wanting pictures and stuff like that. It is always a good experience for me when I come here and I learn things. Now I just think I’ve just got to keep working hard, keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully then I will have a good career.
So you’re not somebody who would look at your journey so far and think, ‘Wow’ – you’re just looking forward and focused on what is to come?
Yeah, exactly. This is only the start for me and I am still young; I’ve still got a long, long way to go. There are still a lot of things I need to improve on in my game, but being here, there is no better place to learn from for these things – that’s both football-wise and also out of football.
Where did you watch the Champions League final last year? And did you ever think when you were watching that game that a year later you’d have a Premier League winner’s medal around your neck?
I watched that game and at the time I was on tour with the U23s and we all sat together watching the game. I was just thinking to myself, seeing what Trent has done and him being in the Academy, going all the way and playing in that game, it was just a big eye-opener for all the Academy players to prove that anything is possible with hard work and dedication, and being humble. Watching that game, I was thinking to myself that there is a chance it could be me in a few years. At the minute, I think I am going in the right direction and I am just looking forward to the future.
You couldn’t have had a better start really though, could you? Breaking through in the season the club wins the title for the first time in 30 years…
There is no better way to make my breakout season in the season we had last season. For me, at 19, to have a Premier League winner’s medal is a surreal moment for me, my family and my friends. But that’s just the start and hopefully in the future I will have more silverware; we’ll keep winning trophies and I’ll keep getting medals. If the lads stay like we have been in the last few seasons, nothing is going to change and we’re heading in the right direction. But there are a lot of things we need to improve on as a team, but each day, with the manager we’ve got, there is no-one better to learn from than him. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting the silverware and getting trophies.
We spoke to the boss about your new deal. He recalled when you first went up to Melwood and said you were ‘a machine’ in training…
Well, most sessions I do at Melwood, I am up against Sadio. Because in the teams we do, we have the starting team and the other team, and mostly every session when we have games back to back – a game always around the corner – I’m always up against Sadio. So every session, it is difficult for me because I am up against one of the best wingers in the world, so I think that has definitely improved me as a player. I don’t think there is any other way of becoming a better player than coming up against the best wingers in the world.
How have you found the step up to Premier League football? Has anything surprised you?
I would say yes; I would say the intensity is much, much harder, the game is faster, but that stuff you need to adapt to when you’re going to Premier League football from U23s football. You get fans, big crowds, and that’s a bit more pressure on you. Obviously with the virus and no fans in the stadiums, I think I haven’t really experienced most of that yet. I am just grateful and thankful to the boss for trusting me and I will prove to him that I am a trustworthy player, I’ll keep working hard and keep pushing.
Your debut was a bit crazy, wasn't it?
I had lots of family and friends come to that game. I think they all said that's one of the best and craziest games they've ever seen. So it was a great debut for me and to obviously get an assist for Divock and for one of the lads who I've grown up with since I was little, Curtis, to score the winning penalty was just an unbelievable moment.
How important is it having Curtis and also Harvey around in the first-team squad? Because you guys are always together...
We're quite close, us three together. That's definitely helped us three a lot. We've been together and trying to push each other to the limits. Obviously we're young lads, we're learning and if we keep going and keep working hard then hopefully we'll get the game time and we'll have great careers.
It looks like you're also having a bit of a laugh together as well...
Like I said, I've known Curtis since I was little, since I was about seven or eight. So for us to go through the Academy stages and get into the senior squad... when you sit back and look at it, it's just an indescribable moment for us. For Harvey to come in, he's only 17 – what an unbelievable talent. At 17 to come into this squad and to do what he does is just unbelievable.
Just on the Academy, how important are all the staff there in your journey so far?
Massively. I wouldn't be here without them and it's not just one or two coaches who get you there, it's the whole Academy – from all the staff I've worked with, the physios, the nutrition people. Every single one of them have helped us get to where we are now. I'm thankful for what they've done for us. Like I said, without them, I wouldn't be here today.
It's not just on the pitch they look after you guys, is it? They take care of a lot of things off the pitch, too...
Even with all the social media meetings we have, all the different types of meetings we have, that's made me who I am today. It's definitely helped my game. Coming up to here, I used to work with Rob Jones quite a lot because he used to be a full-back like me. After mostly every session, I stayed behind for five to 10 minutes to just work on my crossing. From my first day I did to one of my last days at the Academy, I did that with him. That was massive for me, helped me loads.
What have the guys at the Academy said to you since you made your breakthrough into the first team?
To be honest, I haven't really been back to the Academy in quite a while now. All the staff are texting, congratulating me and telling me to keep working hard and keep going. But I think when I do go back to the Academy I'll have a good talk with them all, especially Alex Inglethorpe because he's helped me massively as well. When I get back I'll have a good chat with them and see what they need to say.
In terms of the first-team staff, just how helpful and important is Vitor Matos in bridging the gap between the Academy and the first team?
One of the first sessions I had up in Melwood was a few weeks into Vitor's arrival here. He, 100 per cent, helped me massively because he was the one who was looking after me, who got me to Melwood and he was the one who trusted me at the very start. So without him – like I said with the Academy staff – I wouldn't be here today without him. With us young lads, he's always there, he's always texting us, asking do we need anything. He's massive in my game and this team.
A lot of the young lads in the team talk about the influence of the senior players, the likes of Henderson, Milner, Virgil etc. But when you look around the dressing room and you see these senior professionals who have had such good careers so far, what's it like for a young lad like yourself?
I think for us when you sit down in the changing rooms and you look around, you just want to be like them and you look up to them because they're the ones who have had fantastic careers, they're the ones who are the best in the world at the minute. For us young lads who go up there, you watch them, you watch what they do and you try to learn things off them and try to be like them. To us, they're still role models to us.
What's it like coming away on this pre-season tour with the first team?
I think this is my first pre-season tour, so I think I've got my song in a few days! I think a few of us have got it. That will be interesting to see what my singing is like. It's amazing. Pre-season is obviously hard work but that's what we need to get us ready for the season. With these double sessions mostly every day, I think that's what's going to get our fitness up and that's going to definitely help us for the season coming ahead.
What's the song?
I've got a few in mind but I think I'm going to go with Mario – Let Me Love You. It's a big one but I think I've got it!
Who do you think might struggle a little bit?
I think Billy [Koumetio] will struggle. I think he'll struggle but I think there's a few staff that need to sing as well, so it'll be good to hear what they're going to sing and see what their vocals are like.
Just to sum up, it's a big day for you, it's an important day. What kind of messages have your family been sending and how do they feel about this?
They're just thankful for who I'm thankful for – all the Academy staff, the manager and all the people around Melwood. I've come a long way to where I am now and to sign a long-term contract is just an unbelievable feeling because from when I was six, my dad's been bringing me in every day. For him to see me sign a long-term contract and to be with the senior squad and to keep improving is just an unbelievable feeling for him, as it is for me.
And it's such an exciting opportunity for you, isn't it? You've made the step up and there's so much more to come...
Definitely. The future only starts now for me and I'm looking forward to it. Like I said, I'm hoping to have a great career and just to keep pushing on, keep fighting for places in the team. Hopefully if I keep working hard, stay humble, show my dedication, I'll get the game time in and I'll keep improving.