Ben Williams spent six years at Rovers, and despite his release in 2017, credits the club with playing a key role in his development that is gathering pace with Championship rivals Barnsley.

The full back left Rovers as an 18-year-old at the end of his two-year scholarship following the first-team's relegation from the Championship, but was soon picked up by the Reds.

He has played 29 times for Barnsley since, including in the 3-2 defeat at Rovers in November, and his form has also earned him an extended contract, as well as a call-up to the Wales senior side.

Williams progressed through Rovers’ Academy ranks alongside the likes of Joe Grayson and Tyler Magloire, and is grateful for the start in the game the club provided him with.

He said: “My time at Blackburn was really good and enjoyable.

“The academy was full of good players who had come all the way through their youth ranks.

“It was always drilled into you that everyone wanted to play for Blackburn one day; that it was possible, but that it was also an honour.

“I learned a lot during my time there, and it set me up with a good foundation to move onwards in my career.”

He revealed the heartbreak at not being offered professional terms at Ewood Park, but the left back says coming through the other end of that has made him stronger as a person, and player.

“I didn’t get a contract, which was obviously disappointing, but I think the process of dealing with that made me quite a lot stronger as a player,” he said in an interview with OmniSports Agency.

“When I moved to Barnsley, I think the stuff that I had learned at Blackburn set me up really well to make the step up to the first-team.

“In my last year as a scholar, it didn’t go as well as it had done before because I wasn’t getting as much game time, which meant that my confidence was quite low.

“The fact that I managed to come through that and come out of it as a stronger player and a stronger person, that is obviously good, it definitely made me tougher.

“I think I now find it a lot easier to deal with those types of disappointment.”

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With Rovers a Category One Academy, coming up against the likes of the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Everton on a regular basis is part of the Academy fixture list.

That was a big thrill for Williams, who explained: “I’ve always been a fan of (Manchester) United, to be honest and I was in the academy at Blackburn, I got used to playing against sides of that calibre.

“Being a category one academy side, we would play against United, Manchester City and teams like that, which was obviously great.

“It was great to be competing against such big clubs, and I think that set me up well to move onto Barnsley, because that is where I made the step up to first-team football.”

Having made the grade with Barnsley, helping the club to promotion from League One last season, international honours with Wales are next on his ticklist.

Although born in Preston, he is eligible for Wales through his grandparents, and hopes to impress national team boss Ryan Giggs when the Championship season resumes.

He added: “I was at Blackburn, and some of the Wales youth coaches watched a few games of mine.

“My granddad on my paternal side is Welsh, so that is how I qualify.

“I have played a lot for the different age groups, and last year Ryan Giggs called me up to a training squad in Portugal and included me in the squad for qualifiers in Croatia and Hungary.

“That is one of my targets (making his Wales debut), 100-percent.

“I think as long as I can keep playing and performing well, I will hopefully remain in contention.

“I set myself a lot of goals to achieve, and that is definitely one of them. I just need to keep it going and keep progressing.

“I think it is about taking your chance, and hopefully if I keep working hard then the opportunity will arise at some point.”