It’s always tricky when a Preston-born player achieves success elsewhere.

On the one hand, it’s galling to see North End miss out on a homegrown talent, especially at a time when the youth setup isn’t producing many first-team players.

On the other, I’m a proud Prestonian and seeing people from my city thrive is a source of pride – and that goes for Liverpool defender Rhys Williams right now.

Liverpool v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Fourth Round
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 01: Rhys Williams of Liverpool battles with Eddie Nketiah of Arsenal during the Carabao Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on October 1, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)


Williams, 19, was born in Preston but joined the Liverpool academy at the age of just 10, and won the FA Youth Cup last year.

In August 2019, Williams was sent out on loan to non-league Kidderminster Harriers, so he likely wouldn’t have expected to be starting alongside Virgil van Dijk just over a year later.

That’s exactly what happened though. Williams played in central defence with Van Dijk against Lincoln City last month, and then on an even bigger stage against Arsenal last week.

The praise has been pouring in for Williams ever since, with Jurgen Klopp claiming that he performed ‘exceptionally well’ at Anfield.

Liverpool v Everton: Premier League 2
KIRKBY, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 13: (THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Rhys Williams of Liverpool and Ellis Simms of Everton in action during the PL2 match at The Kirkby Academy on September 13, 2020 in Kirkby, England. (Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

On Monday, Williams’ rapid progression took another step in the right direction, as he was called up by the England Under-21’s for the first time ahead of games against Andorra and Turkey.

A year ago, Williams was playing non-league football. Now, he’s being praised by Klopp, playing alongside Van Dijk and being spotted by England.

That’s outstanding from the teenager, who has never hidden his love for North End; if you go to his Twitter timeline, he is always retweeting and quote tweeting Preston’s result and moments, including one tweet backing Ben Pearson as a better player than Kalvin Phillips.

Williams’ rise may not be happening in a Preston shirt, but we can’t help but be proud of him nonetheless – and who knows, maybe Williams will end up at North End one day, just like Adam Nowland did having taken a longer path to turning out for his boyhood club.

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