Leah Williamson: England Women captain talks Lionesses legacy and goals for 2023

Leah Williamson speaks with Sky Sports reporter Gail Davis on her fantastic 2022 and her objectives for the new year; Williamson discusses Christmas customs, Davina McCall’s letter of congratulations following Euro 2022 triumph, and her ‘pinch me’ moment of the previous year. Before sitting down with Leah Williamson to reflect on what has been a remarkable year, I went through the notes from our previous lengthy conversation, a month before the Euros.

There was a time when she could go out for a pint of milk wearing an England tracksuit and no one would notice. My mother, who has little interest in sports, had never heard of her and would never have imagined calling me on the day of the final to share her thoughts on what the Lionesses captain had said about our changing culture. That day, I underlined the words “fun” (twice), “warm,” “genuine,” and “straight conversation” (that bit was in bold). This is a lady who is not afraid to express herself.

England Women captain Leah Williamson

Leah Williamson England Women captain talks Lionesses legacy and goals for 2023-2

The enormous grin was visible when the England captain strolled inside the bar, wet and windy, after the cancellation of the picture op in front of the Wembley arch. “It was when the hail stones struck my eyes horizontally that I realized this may not be the greatest idea,” she joked. Safely inside and with her vision restored, the self-proclaimed Christmas super fan seemed more irritated by the fact that she didn’t have anything sparkly enough to match the impressive backdrop put together by my producer Maddie, though she more than made up for it with her Christmas enthusiasm and cracker hat wearing.

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What struck me as we sat in the shadows of Wembley only a few months after that great day was that, although the footballing environment in the women’s game had changed dramatically, the lady who helped make it happen had not. Sarina Wiegman, England’s head coach, recognized this when she gave Williamson the captain’s armband ahead of the Euros, saying, “She’s herself and won’t become anybody else.”
It tells a lot about Williamson’s character that when I asked for her 2022 “pinch me” moment, she said no.

It wasn’t the European Championship trophy hoist, the supporters, or the crazy celebration in Trafalgar Square, but something that happened nearly two months later, when the buzz from Wembley had died down. I believe going to the north London derby at the Emirates was the moment,” Williamson stated almost confidently. “Roughly 54,000 tickets were sold, with around 49,000 individuals in a setting that felt like home, and I believe this is sustainable. This is something that has the potential to become the norm. So it was fantastic.

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To win the Euros at Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, and then have such a crowd. I’m simply eternally appreciative, and times like that make me realize that everything we’ve done is truly sticking. That was undoubtedly Williamson’s desire and expectation when we last met, but she couldn’t bear the thought of England winning their first major prize in 56 years. She knew the squad was talented, but as a great England football fan, she had seen the men’s team and their “Golden Generation” fall short.

I had faith in us. I always believed we had a decent chance of winning the tournament. I believe that what has occurred and what we have really done is beyond everything we discussed. I believe we’ve been really fortunate to have enjoyed the year that we’ve had. They delivered, and 17 million fans in England tuned in to see the nail-biting final triumph against Germany in extra time. The Lionesses had captivated the country.

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But who offered the finest congrats message?

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I received notes from individuals in the business, which means a lot since I respect them,” Williamson remarked. “So I think it’s wonderful that they’re so pleased with what we’ve accomplished. On the outside, I believe you have folks I had no idea were admirers. Davina McCall genuinely asked me if I knew what I’d done. What gets to me is when people say thank you, thank you so much, thank you for the summer. I believe it’s the fact Davina says thank you to us, she understands England, she knows what we love as a country and she’s like, ‘It was beautiful. It was just what we needed.

Mrs. Davis, or my mother, obviously approved of Williamson’s remarks on the eve of the greatest game of her career. With all eyes on her, she made certain that whatever the result of the final, her squad would leave a legacy for every woman. Every achievement we have, every shift in judgment or perspective, and every person who sees a woman as having the capacity to be equal to her male counterpart, I believe affects societal change. That is a tremendous message, in my opinion “At the time, Williamson said. She now feels that “so many have lived in this type of darkness, and we made it acceptable to go out.” That makes the England captain grin even more.

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Along with the thank-yous, there has also been a lot of sparkle and glamour. It was the GQ Man of the Year awards a few weeks ago, and Williamson was an honorary invitee, rubbing shoulders with some great names who, she confesses, felt a world away. I’m in a room with people who are so far removed from me and we’re having similar talks, and I didn’t feel completely out of place with the sort of people that are so important “said Arsenal’s and England’s captain.

It was quite incredible. In such instances, I’m kind of navigating and trying not to behave out of place. Williamson was concerned about how the strain of being one of England’s golden girls would feel, and she is still dealing with it. I was at the gas station with my mother in the vehicle,” Williamson said. “She went to pay for gas, and this man knocks on the window, and I’m thinking, either he’s yelling at me for being on my phone, or he recognized me and people line up outside bathrooms to see you. I never ask for a photo since there was a mural painted of me in my hometown and I came up to this lady taking a picture and thought it would be hilarious if I put my arm around her and got in.

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She just looked at me strangely, so I told her I’d let her have one on her own, and she was like, thanks. I completely misjudged the scenario. Williamson spoke about her ability to compartmentalize before the Euros. She liked football because she could leave it and return to it the following day. It offered her the freedom to live the rest of her life, and she appreciated the feeling of serenity and balance it provided, but that equilibrium has seemed a bit less steady in recent months.

“The actual life I knew, the one I felt I had such a nice balance in, is no longer there, and it’s difficult for me to find an escape, Williamson said. “I walk back into what was my real-life circumstance, and it still works. I enjoy it, and I love that people recognize us, but it was my moment to shut off. I’ve got to come up with fresh strategies to get away. That means a lot more evenings in at the moment. You know, I want to be present and accessible to people, I want to participate, but I don’t know anybody who can do it all the time, with that kind of enthusiasm.

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Williamson’s close family has kept her grounded throughout these trying times, and Christmas will provide her with an opportunity to spend meaningful time with them. It’s comforting to know that, despite being England’s Euros-winning captain, all hell would break out in the Williamson household if her stocking wasn’t placed on her door and full on Christmas morning. There are gifts on a strict rotation system, supper, and “soul-destroying” karaoke style carol singing around the table. In the end, cracker hats are required, and the battle for the green triangle in that well-known box of chocolates brings out Williamson’s no-nonsense side. “Don’t mess around, it’s not amusing no one is having those over me”.

It’s one thing to compete in chocolate selection; it’s quite another to see the cracker pulling. For the record, I won but did not dare to rejoice, instead handing away the reward – a Head Elf sticker proudly displayed on her breast. Fitting in words, at least, for someone who has made the job of leading her own this year. You hope that the holiday season allows Williamson to take a moment to think about the magnitude of her journey – before this summer, she had only played six minutes at a big event and was not even captain of her club Arsenal, and now she is leading England out and creating history.

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If she does take a break, you can bet “River Deep Mountain High” by Celine Dion will be playing. “It has to be my song of the year,” says Williamson, the squad’s main DJ. When she hears it and can get over the recollection of Rachel Daley’s singing, it brings back the best moments, ones she wishes she could relive again and again. How can you top what you’ve accomplished in 2023? I inquire about her resolutions. “It’s extremely grownup, I’ve gone over now, cleaning up after myself, having more time for myself, and maintaining a journal to organize my life and not miss anything.

I gently remind her about the upcoming World Cup, and she giggles. “Oh absolutely,” she responds, apparently oblivious to the notion that the Lionesses might make even more history in Australia and New Zealand next year. The country now anticipates. Hopefully, we’ll have another fantastic summer. Are we going to be able to live up to this year’s performance? I doubt it, but this is the next one, and you haven’t done it until you have a World Cup “Williamson explains. It echoed what she said last in our meeting before the Euros “It’s one of those – do you dare to fantasize? However, you must also take care of the day-to-day operations “She still believes it, and why wouldn’t she? It’s worked out rather well for England’s captain so far.

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