There was no prouder place on earth than the village of Cefn Mawr near Wrexham yesterday when a local hero made his full debut for Wales.
Liverpool FC right-back Neco Williams came on in the second half of Wales’ 1-0 UEFA Nations League win in Finland last night.
Neco, 19, who has made 12 first team appearances for the Reds, had played eight times for Wales Under-19’s before Ryan Giggs brought him on in the 60th minute at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.
Williams became the 17th player to be awarded his first senior Wales cap by Giggs.
Bodelwyddan-born Dylan Levitt of Manchester United started in the midfield, Corwen’s Harry Wilson came on for Bale, and there was a late debut for former The New Saints loanee Ben Cabango, as well as Anglesey’s Wayne Hennessey between the sticks.
As for Neco Williams, he made quite an impression after replacing Jonny Williams, speeding in at the back post as Kieffer Moore finished off Dan James’ cross for Wales’ 80th minute winner.
The Liverpool star also had a later chance to score a second when he met a cross into the box, but fired off target.
With Neco hailing from Cefn Mawr, the three local football teams – Druids, Albion and Rangers – were obviously delighted to see their favourite son take his full Welsh bow.
Neco’s cousin, Cefn Albion secretary Dean Morris, said this after the game: “In his first senior cap, Neco was excellent and looked a real threat going forward.
“He usually plays right wing-back for Liverpool and in this position, he always gets forward.
“Playing more of a right-wing role for his country gave him even more opportunity to get involved in the attack. We thought he almost scored when DJ crossed only for big Kieffer Moore to poke it home.
“I think he can take plenty of positives from his Welsh debut and it further shows that he can adapt to numerous positions across the park.
“He showed fantastic energy up and down the wing and his quality was there for everyone to see. It was a momentous occasion for the Cefner and he didn’t disappoint!
“Neco has many family members and friends that represent Cefn Albion Football Club, so his journey has been followed very closely from a young age.
“In recent years since recovering from a nasty back injury, Neco has made fantastic progress, first representing the Premier League champions Liverpool and collecting his winners medals to now representing the national team, Wales coming on as a substitute in last night’s away win in Finland.
“It goes without saying that we are super proud of his achievements so far but we know that there is so much more to come from this talented Cefner.
“He is only 19!
“What’s truly amazing about this story so far, is despite his success and having the world at his feet, Neco has not changed one bit as a person and still very much has his Cefn Mawr roots at heart.
“He is a frequent visitor to the village and he regularly meets with family and friends, many of our players, management and supporters.
“Around here, most people know Neco, especially now, and you can guarantee that he will always help in whatever way he can.
“Speaking to his parents he regularly signs various memorabilia, among many other requests and you always see him having photographs or stopping for a chat to people. Nothing is any trouble for him.
“Our very own Premier League champion and a Welsh international has well and truly put Cefn Mawr on the map. This is his story but everyone from our amazing community fully supports Neco, what he has achieved so far is simply amazing.
“We are very proud indeed. His parents, Emma and Lee, deserve to see Neco on the biggest stage after all the dedication over the years back and to Liverpool almost every day. Congratulations to them also.
“Well done Neco, you should be very proud of what you have achieved so far and keep aiming high. Keep being you!”