Curtis Jones has made first-team breakthrough for Liverpool this season but Neco Williams is suffering a frustrating time

Here’s a question for you. Who is the only player to have been in every matchday squad for Liverpool this season?
Roberto Firmino? Not quite. Andy Robertson? Nope. Gini Wijnaldum? That’s good, but it’s not right.
Give yourself a pat on the back, then, if you said Curtis Jones, the 20-year-old having at the very least been among the substitutes for all 38 games of the campaign this far.
Jones gave another example of why he is so highly regarded at Anfield with the opening goal in Sunday’s 2-0 Premier League win at rock-bottom Sheffield United.
The midfielder has grown in maturity and importance for Liverpool having grasped the opportunity offered to him by a succession of injuries in the engine room this season, making 29 appearances and featuring in 16 of the last 18 Premier League games.
Yet when the last season campaign after lockdown, Jones wasn’t expected to be the only youngster making a decisive first-team breakthrough this time around.
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Indeed, it was Neco Williams who was the more regular performer during the closing weeks of the title-winning term, appearing in six of the last nine games – starting three – having never before featured in the Premier League despite a number of appearances on the bench.
Jones made just four outings and was given one start, but did score his debut top-flight goal in the 2-0 home win over Aston Villa.
If Jurgen Klopp was looking forward to “having some fun” with the midfielder, it was Williams who was stepping out from having been “in the shadows” according to his boss.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold absent, the right-back started the Community Shield against Arsenal in August.
Since then, though, his opportunities have been limited. Williams made two starts in both the League Cup and Champions League – setting up a winning goal for Jones at home to Ajax – and started three league games in the autumn after Alexander-Arnold suffered a calf complaint.
But since a 22-minute cameo at Fulham, his only action has been a 90-minute FA Cup appearance against Aston Villa’s kids and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it run-out from the bench against RB Leipzig in the Champions League last month.
As Klopp himself pondered in December: “When is the right moment for a young boy to come in?”
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Liverpool’s indifferent form since the turn of the year – and, it must be said, the recent improvement of Alexander-Arnold – has persuaded the Reds boss to keep Williams kicking his heels on the bench, perhaps not wishing to expose the teenager to the general malaise.
But for a 19-year-old still developing his game, the lack of action is not ideal, particularly when he is unable to gain minutes with the under-23s.
Williams is stuck in limbo, too important for the senior squad to be playing at Academy level – he has only been absent from five of the 38 matchday squads – but not quite ready yet to be a regular in the first-team, having made a relatively modest 12 outings, eight as a starter.
In fact, there is every chance he could play for Wales in their World Cup qualifiers later this month before he appears again for the Reds, eager to cement his place in the squad for this summer’s European Championships – wherever that ends up being.
Rhys Williams, the 20-year-old defender, finds himself in a similar situation, having been given just two FA Cup outings in the past nine weeks but not featuring for the under-23s since late October.
Of course, both are benefiting from training regularly with the first-team. But even that cannot replicate the cut and thrust of competitive football, no matter what the level.
If Jones is now a fully-fledged member of the first team, then Williams is still waiting to make that final step from squad to starting XI.
How – and if – that happens will be intriguing to observe.
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