How many people can say they’ve captained England to a major trophy before the age of 26?
Two. The late Bobby Moore and Leah Williamson. Moore was 25 years old when he lifted the World Cup in 1966. Williamson was the same age when she guided the Lionesses to their first piece of silverware last summer.
Williamson turns 26 today and has already got the world at her feet. The Arsenal defender has every chance of making it back-to-back trophies Down Under this summer.
England will be one of the favourites to win the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and a big part of that is down to the leadership of their captain.
Williamson’s success with the Lionesses has quickly seen her become her one of the most recognisable faces of football, but her popularity transcends sport.
Leah Williamson is one of just two people that can say they have captained England to a major trophy before the age of 26
WIlliamson was England skipper when they lifted the Euros last year at Wembley Stadium
The only other person with the claim to fame is Bobby Moore, 1966 World Cup winning captain
She was on the front cover of GQ magazine for December and January and even made an appearance on the Graham Norton show on New Year’s Eve.
As England’s team DJ, it was perhaps fitting that she was one of a few England players invited to this year’s BRIT awards while she also helped present a prize at the National Television awards alongside Millie Bright and Jill Scott.
It is no surprise that brands like Nike, Gucci, Vogue, Pepsi, Doritos and Cadbury’s have all been lining up to work with the England captain.
Another front page magazine shoot, this time for Women’s Health, had a far reaching impact at the end of last year.
In the piece, Williamson spoke openly about suffering from endometriosis.
The defender was diagnosed in 2021 after suffering from intense period pains, and a concussion injury just before the Euros nearly put her participation in doubt.
The defender has been involved in many ventures and projects following her recent successes
She was on the front page of Women’s Health, in which she opened up about suffering from endometriosis
‘Before the Euros I had a concussion, which they say can really impact your next period, and it was bad – like, really bad,’ Williamson told Women’s Health.
‘You know when you’re on the bathroom floor and literally like: ‘I can’t move.’ When it’s too late to take the tablets because I’m, like, in it now.
‘I was like, “it cannot happen.” Like, I actually won’t be able to play. [An endometriosis flare-up] is a big fear when you get to a tournament not injured.’
As well as raising vital awareness for the condition, Williamson is involved in a number of charities. She is an ambassador for the Willow Foundation, who provide Special Days and treats for seriously ill young adults.
Wiliamson’s work off the pitch in creating a path for young girls to follow is arguably as important as her achievements on it. She and Lotte Wubben-Moy were instrumental in forcing the government to pledge they would provide girls with equal access to football and school sport.
Williamson, alongside Lotte Wubben-Moy, were instrumental in forcing the government to pledge they would provide girls with equal access to football and school sport
On the football pitch, Williamson is known for her calmness and composure on the ball and her discipline off it, having never been sent off for club or country.
Williamson’s journey to England captain started when she joined Arsenal’s academy in 2006, aged nine. Despite growing up in a household of Tottenham fans, Williamson chose to support the Gunners and has not looked back.
She made her senior debut at the age of 17 and a first England cap followed four years later.
By the age of 21, Williamson had over 100 appearances for Arsenal and four trophies (she now has six). In December last year, the defender made her 200th appearance for the club and there is every chance she will go on to make 300 and beyond.
While Kim Little currently wears the captain’s armband for Arsenal, it is more than likely Williamson will take on the mantle in the future.
She is not yet the Arsenal captain, but should be one day and has already made over 200 appearances for the club
Sarina Wiegman knew Williamson would be at the heart of the team for years to come when making her captain
There was some surprise when Sarina Wiegman named Williamson as captain over more experienced names in the Lionesses camp. But the England manager knew Williamson would be at the heart of the team years to come and had the right qualities and temperament to deal with the pressure.
Williamson had already showcased her leadership characteristics in an England shirt. Aged 18, she was thrust into the limelight while playing in a deciding qualifying match for the U19 European Championship in 2015.
Williamson had taken and scored a stoppage-time penalty against Norway. But in a bizarre turn of events, she had to retake it five days later.
German referee Marija Kurtes had disallowed the goal for encroachment and awarded a free-kick to Norway, instead of ordering a retake.
The decision meant England lost 2-1 and missed out on a place in the tournament finals. But in an unprecedented move, UEFA agreed the rules had not been followed and decided the match should be replayed from the 96th minute — starting with Williamson’s penalty. The days that followed were anxious and Williamson was seen pacing the halls of England’s hotel until the day finally came.
The story had attracted national attention. There was a large crowd and Sky Sports News went there live to broadcast the penalty. She scored, emphatically. Even at that young age, Williamson had nerves of steel.
Her success at last summer’s Euros has made Williamson one of the most recognised faces in football. She was awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List and on Tuesday she was named top of the BBC’s Woman’s Hour Power List.
Williamson is undoubtedly a role model and inspiration to many and the imminent release of her book ‘You have the Power’ will likely be another success she can add to her collection of achievements.
Williamson is set to play a part in the second leg of Arsenal’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich on Wednesday
She is set to release a book, titled ‘You have the Power’, in the not too distant future
The birthday celebrations, however, will be on hold until after this evening’s Champions League quarter-final between Arsenal and Bayern Munich.
The Gunners, who have sold over 20,000 tickets for the game, are trailing 1-0 from the first leg last week but should probably have taken something from the game after creating several opportunities to score.
‘It’s my birthday so I hope we have a good day anyway!’ Williamson said after last week’s first leg.
‘From now until the end of the season every game is a final.’
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