THE FATHER of a Wrexham-born Wales star has expressed his pride at seeing his son play in the European Championships.
Neco Williams, who grew up in Cefn Mawr, made his first start for Wales in a major tournament in the 1-0 defeat to Italy on Sunday.
And the 20-year-old Liverpool man was widely praised for his performance by fans on social media – with one person saying: “Neco Williams is playing out of position and against arguably the best team in the tournament. He played brilliantly, considering.”
Neco’s Dad, Lee, admitted it was a very proud moment for the family.
He told the Leader: “It’s what he’s worked extremely hard for since the age of six. The sacrifices he made as a youngster were incredible – he missed out on a lot of his childhood with the amount he trained and played, but things like making a start in a European Championships game make it all worthwhile.
Lee said Neco still calls him after every game to get his Dad’s thoughts on his performances.
“In terms of his performance on Sunday, I was pretty pleased,” Lee said.
“He wasn’t able to get forward much as he loves to do but that was just the nature of the game – with Italy dominating for long periods. Overall though, I thought he did well.”
Neco, who is currently at the centre of speculation linking him with a move away from Anfield, started his footballing journey at Cefn United before being scouted at a tournament at the age of six.
Lee said it was clear that he, and his younger brother Keelan who plays for Burnley, were special talents from a young age.
“Even when Neco was messing about with his mates at the age of 5, you could see he how much better technically he was than anyone else,” Lee said.
“It was the same when Keelan got to that age as well. But truthfully I never thought they’d both go on to achieve what they have. They have both worked so hard for it.”
Lee said that he hopes one day Neco and Keelan could both represent Wales in the same team.
He added: “With the grandparents link England tried to get him to choose to play for them. But that was never going to happen – Neco is Welsh through and through.
“It’s a shame we’ve not been able to go and watch him, but we’ll be cheering him and the lads on from the sofa on Friday for the knock out game in Amsterdam.”
Another local player representing Wales at the tournament is Harry Wilson.
The Corwen-born forward attended Ysgol Dinas Bran in Llangollen.
The school’s headteacher, Mark Hatch, said: “We are all so proud to see Harry representing Wales at the Euros.
“He has never forgotten Ysgol Dinas Brân and is always happy to help and support us as a school at any opportunity he can.
“Harry was such a hardworking, dedicated, modest member of our school community and we are delighted that all his effort is paying off.”
He added: “Harry kindly gave the school the jersey he wore when he made his debut against Belgium back in October 2013. The jersey is framed outside our PE Department and gives our pupils massive inspiration every day knowing that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
“Well done Harry and the team, we are all looking forward to the next game!”