Liverpool centre-back Rhys Williams admits he has made errors in his recent outings, but is confident he can convince the “people that matter” that he belongs at this level.
Williams has been one of the youngsters to most benefit from the Reds’ precarious injury situation this season, filling in with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip sidelined.
His debut in the 7-2 victory over Lincoln in the League Cup came alongside Van Dijk, but his most frequent partner so far – in three of his seven starts – has been another stand-in, Fabinho.
A lack of consistency has hampered Liverpool at the back in general, but this is also the case for Williams on an individual level, with the 19-year-old also starting next to Gomez and Matip at points.
That, paired with the demands of coming into the side after a period of inactivity – which is likely to be the case in Sunday’s FA Cup clash at Man United – has presented a challenge for the youngster.
And while he has largely coped, Williams accepts that he has been culpable in both of his last two appearances, most notably when burned for pace by Aston Villa goalscorer Louie Barry in the third-round win at Villa Park.
“Every time I’ve put the shirt on, I’ve just tried to do my best,” he told Goal‘s Neil Jones.
“I’ve made one or two mistakes, but I’m 19, I’m still learning.
“Up until the West Brom and Aston Villa games, I think I’d been doing alright to be honest. I’ve just got to keep working hard to get that consistency.”
In a week that saw Williams’ namesake, right-back Neco Williams, argue that no 19-year-old should be dealt the abuse he has been on social media, the centre-back has presented a mature view on criticism.
He believes that it is important to shut out the noise from outside the club and solely focus on convincing the “people that matter,” namely Jurgen Klopp.
“Criticism now, if you can deal with it then I think you’ll go far in the game,” Williams continued.
“You have to accept that not everyone is going to have a nice opinion, or the opinion that you think is right.
“But as long as you keep impressing the people that matter, your players and the manager, that’s all that matters.
“The manager is picking the team, and as long as you’re playing well and he’s liking what you’re doing, that’s all you need to care about.”
For all the talk of a new centre-back being a priority, with Klopp intimating his hands are tied due to the club’s financial caution, Williams feels that when he is “on his game 100 percent” he is strong enough to perform at Premier League level.
“When the big players are back, chances are going to be hard to come by,” he accepted.
“For now, I just try to impress [Klopp] in every game, every training session, so that if he does give me an opportunity, I’ll be there to take it.
“In the Premier League, every game is difficult no matter who you’re playing. But if I’m on my game 100 percent, playing as well as I can, I think I can cope.”
As Williams admits, with Matip now back fit his opportunities will be limited – and this will be even more so when Van Dijk and Gomez make their eventual return – but he is still likely to be called on throughout the campaign.
His mission will be not to impress those beyond the walls of Kirkby, but simply Klopp and his team-mates – as there remains a long-term place in the squad open at this stage.