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Leah Williamson: the ‘future icon’ bidding to guide England to Euro 2022 glory

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hen Sarina Wiegman questioned Leah Williamson if she could communicate to her one night time following evening meal in September final yr, the Arsenal defender assumed she was in difficulty.

Wiegman experienced just taken about as England head mentor and the staff have been making ready for their initial activity below her against North Macedonia.

Williamson was not in difficulties, considerably from it. Alternatively, Wiegman experienced pulled her aside to give her the captaincy for a established of Earth Cup qualifiers in the absence of Steph Houghton.

The 25-calendar year-old has never enable go of the armband because, and in April she was handed the role forever. Tomorrow, she will direct England out at a bought-out Outdated Trafford versus Austria as the Lionesses start off their quest to gain this summer’s Women’s Euros.

“Walking out as captain at a house Euros will be the most important honour of my existence, so I’m actually psyched,” suggests Williamson. “I truly feel like I’m all set.”

Since being designed captain, Williamson has manufactured a position of not transforming how she is — and all those in the squad have recognized that.

“She is still the same Leah,” states her England and Arsenal crew-mate Lotte Wubben-Moy. “I assume that is probably what Leah provides as a captain. She won’t adjust, she will be herself to the greatest attainable variation. I really don’t assume we expect anything less.”

When it comes to schooling and matches, Williamson likes to direct by example. Both those at Arsenal and England recognise her as 1 of the most professional players, with an exemplary work ethic.

She is fiercely aggressive and vocal on the pitch, but absent from it she can be quieter. Her spare time is typically stuffed accomplishing Sudoku and finding out for accountancy examinations.

Williamson is humble, pretty much seemingly unaware of her personal expertise, which probably clarifies the combine-up with Wiegman in advance of she was named England captain in September.

Williamson has had that humility all her lifestyle, and individuals at her previous school, Ousedale, in Milton Keynes, observed it when she returned just lately to stop by them, as she questioned employees: “Will the youngsters all know who I am?”

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They did, of system, and those at the school have fond reminiscences of Williamson, who was a purely natural chief back again from an early age.

“She experienced the relaxation of her peers managing warm-ups, doing drills with no bother in any way, they wholly had regard for her then,” states Jo Environmentally friendly, who taught Williamson PE at Ousedale. “That was in Yr 9 — and now she’s England captain!”

Eco-friendly remembers Williamson as being a natural athlete, able of turning her hand to just about anything — “we experienced her managing the cross place, participating in netball” — but soccer was her best sport.

Ousedale had a thriving girls’ group, who normally designed it to County Cup finals, and Williamson was at the heart of the facet. A critical good quality was her ability to keep stage headed, and that calming affect is now being felt at England, with Williamson coming across as an unflappable leader.

“We would travel to some fixtures with a challenging ecosystem and moments wherever you felt like, can we perform this fixture?” remembers Environmentally friendly.

“Miss Omand, the teacher in charge of girls’ football at the time, would stimulate them all and issues like a wonky pitch, or nets held out by bins, didn’t faze her, due to the fact she constantly experienced this concentrate and would embrace this with the workforce.”

Williamson’s leadership attributes ongoing to flourish at Arsenal, exactly where she came through the ranks enjoying in midfield and defence.

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She resolved to aim on remaining a centre-back again to aid cement a place in the Arsenal initially staff as a teenager, but Wiegman has been making use of in her midfield, which has occur as minor surprise to her old coaches.

“On the ball, she was outstanding, she experienced temperament to engage in,” states Pedro Martinez Losa, who coached Arsenal Ladies from 2014 to 2017. “We could see her versatility. She played as a No6, she did a excellent task, but she could play centre-back.

“I considered she was going to be a person of the icons for the future immediately after all these gamers like Rachel Yankey, Kelly Smith and Alex Scott who were coming to the finish of their occupations. In my belief, Leah was the upcoming one particular to come by.

“One of her attributes was her leadership. She desired to be vocal. She required to guide gamers, to persuade and motivate. She ticked a good deal of packing containers of what a captain is.

“I can examine her — and she will like this — to Kelly Smith. She was a pretty shy participant off the pitch, but on the pitch she could change herself as a chief.”

Martinez Losa thinks Williamson will “love” the comparison to Smith, who was her suitable escalating up.

Williamson utilised to have a signed photograph of Smith on her wall which experienced experienced the phrases “dream big” composed on it. She has unquestionably performed that.

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