Neco Williams: Wales hand Liverpool defender, 19, first senior call-up

Neco Williams: Wales hand Liverpool defender, 19, first senior call-up
Wales youth international Neco Williams made 11 appearances for Premier League champions Liverpool this season

Wales have given Liverpool’s teenage full-back Neco Williams a first senior call-up for September’s Nations League matches against Finland and Bulgaria.

Williams, 19, is one of two new faces in Ryan Giggs’ squad along with Swansea City centre-back Ben Cabango, 20.

West Brom forward Hal Robson-Kanu returns having reversed his decision to retire from international football.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, whose futures at Real Madrid and Juventus are under scrutiny, are both included.

Aston Villa left-back Neil Taylor has been left out, while there is no place for Stoke City striker Sam Vokes or centre-back James Chester.

Another Stoke player, Joe Allen, is ruled out through injury, while Bournemouth and Swansea centre-backs Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon – as well as Derby County forward Tom Lawrence – are not included as they work their way back to full fitness following recent injuries.

However, there are places for defenders Ashley Williams and Chris Gunter, both of whom are without a club having left Bristol City and Reading respectively at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Wales travel to Finland on Thursday, 3 September, before hosting Bulgaria at Cardiff City Stadium the following Sunday.

‘Exciting’ young talents

Neco Williams, in action here for Wales Under-19s, signed a new contract with Liverpool this month

Giggs has placed a strong emphasis on developing young players since he was appointed Wales manager in January 2018, nurturing the likes of Daniel James, David Brooks and Ethan Ampadu.

Williams and Cabango are the latest youngsters to get their chance, with Wales Under-19 international Williams in particular catching the eye after a breakthrough end to the season with Premier League champions Liverpool.

“I am excited because they’re really good talents, who I’ve known about for a long time,” said Giggs.

“Neco played quite a lot of games towards the end of the season and he’s an exciting player at a big club.

“Ben, similar, is someone Rob Page [Wales Under-21s manager] has talked about and someone who’s done really well and made really good progress over the last year or so.”

At the other end of the scale where experience is concerned, Robson-Kanu is included in a Wales squad for the first time since October 2017.

Two years after scoring a spectacular goal in Wales’ Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium, he made himself unavailable for selection, citing personal reasons.

But in January this year, Robson-Kanu reversed that decision and he is back in the Wales squad at the age of 31.

“He’s in a much better place, playing regularly and playing well for West Brom and I was keen to get him into the fold,” said Giggs.

“He adds something different to what we’ve got, whether that’s starting or coming off the bench. It will be exciting to work with him for the first time.”

Robson-Kanu wants more Wales memories

Wales squad

Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey (Crystal Palace), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Adam Davies (Stoke City).

Defenders: Chris Gunter (unattached), Ashley Williams (unattached), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Connor Roberts (Swansea City), Tom Lockyer (Charlton Athletic), Ethan Ampadu (Chelsea), James Lawrence (Anderlecht), Ben Cabango (Swansea City), Neco Williams (Liverpool).

Midfielders: Aaron Ramsey (Juventus), Jonathan Williams (Charlton Athletic), Harry Wilson (Liverpool), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Matthew Smith (Manchester City), Daniel James (Manchester United), Will Vaulks (Cardiff City), Joe Morrell (Bristol City), Dylan Levitt (Manchester United).

Forwards: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid), Hal Robson-Kanu (West Bromwich Albion), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United), Rabbi Matondo (Schalke), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City).

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