‘Emotional’ Leah Williamson to make first England start in almost a year

Estimated read time 3 min read

Sarina Wiegman has confirmed Leah Williamson will start against the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night in England’s second Euro 2025 qualifier.

Williamson, the Euro 2022-­winning captain, said she would probably have to fight back the tears at the Aviva Stadium when she steps out with England for the first time in almost a year,having been sidelined with an anterior cruciate ligament injury since last April. She was on the bench at Wembley for Friday’s 1-1 draw with Sweden.

“Yes, it will be [emotional],” she said. “It was emotional on Friday. I’m an emotional person; we’ve all seen me cry on many occasions.”

The Arsenal defender last played for England in a 2-0 friendly loss to Australia last April, missing the World Cup. She laughed when asked what her manner was like when watching games. “I don’t think I was a calming ­presence for anyone especially,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed watching the girls and being a part of that journey in a different way. Obviously I’ve got people that play for the team that are very important to me, but it’s been a difficult journey.

“I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t what I had my focus on, this is where I was trying to get back to. I wanted to get back into this squad because I’ve had some of the best memories of my life as part of this team.”

Williamson brings vision to the team, according to Wiegman. “Leah is a fantastic player,” the manager said. “I want to say first that we had hard choices to make in the team. The competitiveness is really high. What Leah brings is vision and in ­possession she is very bright, she finds the right pass. The flexibility in defence: she is able to defend the space behind her, together with ­everyone else.”

In Dublin on Tuesday, Williamson faces a familiar foe in Katie McCabe, an Arsenal teammate and Ireland’s talismanic captain. How do you stop McCabe? “Well, if she doesn’t have the ball then she can’t do anything,” Williamson said. “That’s a good start, right?” Wiegman said with a laugh: “I was hoping for that answer.”

More seriously, Williamson said of her clubmate: “I think Katie is a big personality. She’s always been somebody that is very proud of where she comes from and has been authentic in that with the fans, so I think a lot of people connect to her in that way. She knows her strengths; she has those strengths that can be ­gamechanging as well, which I think has raised the profile of her game and, subsequently, Arsenal’s, so she’s been an important player for us over the last couple of years.”

skip past newsletter promotion

Although England’s draw with Sweden and France’s 1-0 defeat of Ireland puts pressure on Wiegman’s players to secure victory, with the top two teams in each group avoiding playoffs for the Euros, Wiegman is keen not to overstate its significance.

“I don’t really want to talk about must-win, but we really want to win this game,” she said. “If we win it puts us in a better position. We know this group. It’s hard to predict where it will go … If the result is not good, it puts us in a harder position. But there are still four other opportunities to change that around.”

Source: theguardian.com

You May Also Like

More From Author