Leah Williamson: Former Arsenal and England captain on why the Gunners star is the perfect choice to captain Lionesses at Euro 2022
The more things change, the more they stay the same – as the famous saying goes.
In 2022, women’s football is thriving and, with just under three weeks to go until Sarina Wiegman’s England side kick off their European Championship campaign on home soil, the tournament is proving to be catalyst for growth in the sport.
A number of games have already sold out in record time, while football-loving children are filling their Panini sticker books with female footballers – some for the first time.
However, when talking with an superstar of the women’s game - former Arsenal and England captain Faye White - you would be forgiven for noticing the stark familiarity between what 27-year-old White has experienced and the woman who will be leading the Lionesses out in their Euro 2022 opening against Austria on July 6, Leah Williamson.
"She’s similar to me, I was made the England captain before I was an Arsenal captain, so we both have that experience of being given the job of captaining our country first – and my first tournament as captain was our home Euros in 2005, similar to what Leah will experience this summer," says White with a smile, as she reflects on the remarkable parallels between the pair.
Capped 27-times for her country, Arsenal midfielder Williamson was handed the captaincy by Sarina Wiegmann as recently as April, but has proven to be a popular choice amongst fans and players alike.
Not a stereotypical captain
Not your stereotypical captain, the 25-year-old is rarely seen screaming and stomping around the field, she instead appears to choose to speak with purpose, each word measured and each sentence thought out.
A cool head and perhaps, as White attests, the perfect choice of captain to face the pressures of leading a young, exciting team of players as they play in front of their home crowd at a major tournament for the first time.
“She’s a very humble person, and player, both on and off the field” said White.
“I think sometimes with a captain, it is not just what you do away from the game – how you act around the team, and the media. And I think Leah is great with that because it isn’t an act – that is just her, and who she is.
"The way she talks, the way she presents herself and commits herself to the game has been her from a very young age at Arsenal. I remember watching her in the Arsenal youth teams, and you could see from the way she played, the way she carried herself and the team that she was going to be a future captain.
“I sympathise with all the things she has to deal with at the moment because I faced the same at my first home Euros in 2005, albeit it is perhaps on a slightly bigger scale nowadays. There’s much more media interest and the women’s game has really grown since then.
"Equally though, they will be a bit more protection for her, in my day in was more having to do everything I can because the game needed it – sometimes I look back at that and think it was maybe at the detriment of being able to simply play the game."
An on-field leader
"Leah is a leader on the field. She’s really composed and I think she’s actually improved as a player since being given the role of captain, I think the best are the ones who, when given that level of responsibility, it takes them onto another level.
"I had a quick text message with her recently, and she is very humble in knowing she needs to be flexible, and that she can’t do this all on her own, she will need to learn and adapt as she goes – as captains do.
"Being a captain is about being single minded sometimes and being able to concentrate on the things that matter at the right times. In a tournament, she’s going to have to pick and choose what they are, and keep her focus on that.”