England Women

Leah Williamson labels England captaincy 'biggest honour in football'

Ali Rampling
Williamson will lead England at Euro 2022
Williamson will lead England at Euro 2022 / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Leah Williamson has branded being named England captain the 'biggest honour in football', after it was announced on Tuesday that the Arsenal defender would wear the Lionesses armband at Euro 2022.

Williamson has captained England for the majority of Sarina Wiegman's tenure due to injury to long-term skipper Steph Houghton, who remains a doubt for the European Championships after undergoing Achilles surgery.

The question marks over Houghton's availability led to Wiegman informing Williamson that she would lead the side at the home Euros on the Monday. It was a special occasion for not only Williamson but her family too - who follow her home and away for club and country.

"It's a very proud moment, it's the biggest honour in football and I appreciate that and am aware of that and I suppose the responsibility that comes with that, especially in England," Williamson said, speaking to the media for the first time since being formally named captain.

"My family were very happy for me. For us it's our job and something we do on a daily basis, for them it's something nice for them to enjoy and maybe something after all these years of watching me to watch me do it on the biggest stage with that responsibility is really proud for them.

"I went straight to my mum, dad and brother and obviously they're - I can't say it enough - very proud. It was a nice conversation, some tears within the family and then get back to work.

"As much as we down play it and we do want to down play it - it's not going to change the world, is it? But people want to appreciate a nice moment and I think they know how proud I am so it's been lovely."

Williamson has been in and around the Arsenal first team since she was a teenager, growing up playing alongside leaders such as Casey Stoney, Alex Scott and current Gunners captain Kim Little.

The defender has observed and absorbed their behaviours to mould her into the leadership figure that she is today.

"I'm somebody who likes to watch and listen quite a lot and try and use other people's strengths and see how I can contribute or help, but also if you see a good trait in someone else and think that's what you'd like to be yourself," Williamson added.

"I think especially with Kim being my captain at Arsenal, she's an incredible leader and an incredible person so we're very different but there's definitely things I've learnt from her and will continue to do so."

Despite not being captain for her club, the 25-year-old has led England at youth level, and demonstrated her ability to shoulder pressure and handle scrutiny in pretty extreme circumstances when wearing the armband at Under-19 level.

Williamson had to retake a penalty against Norway five days after it had been incorrectly disallowed, with the success of the spot kick determining whether England would qualify for the Under-19 European Championships. It attracted quite the flurry of media attention.

A little over seven years to the day since that unprecedented event, Williamson will lead England out again in Belfast - the very same city where the penalty incident took place - as the Lionesses take on Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifying.

"It turned out well in the end but I went through I wouldn't wish on anyone," Williamson reflects. "I told my mum to keep it quiet in case I missed and nobody would ever know, and then you lot turned up with your Sky Sports cameras!

"There's a couple of the girls here who were there in that squad so we were reminiscing the other day; good memories because it turned out well, but we all know it could have gone very differently."