England captain Williamson discusses leadership and that on-field relationship with Walsh | OneFootball

England captain Williamson discusses leadership and that on-field relationship with Walsh

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Back in April, the Lionesses squad anxiously awaited head coach Sarina Wiegman’s decision on who would captain the nation at the UEFA Women’s EURO this summer.

The player selected to wear the armband was 25-year-old Arsenal defender Leah Williamson. She will lead her country out for the opening game against Austria at a sold-out Old Trafford in just over a week from now.

Speaking at a recent England media day, Williamson discussed squad selection, her role as captain and her relationship with head coach Wiegman.

“I was probably the most relaxed,” Williamson said when commenting on the final squad selection for the EUROs. “I scraped my way into the last big tournament, so I know how it feels until you hear those words and you know you’re in the squad.

“Sarina knows what she wants and she’s very, very clear about it. She is a matter-of-fact person and doesn’t really leave many grey areas, which I think is a real strength.

“Maybe people imagine that a captain doesn’t often talk to the manager. I have small chats and I’ll speak about things that need to be spoken about, but it’s not forced. If she needs any information, I’m here and if not, we just kind of facilitate whatever she wants to do.”

Williamson has mainly played in a centre-back role during her time with Barclays Women’s Super League club Arsenal but in recent seasons, she has become more accustomed to also playing a deeper midfield role. She went on to discuss what that’s been like.

She said “Naturally, I play there every week (defence) so it would be more comfortable, but I never tend to do things that make me comfortable or try not to because I know I’m a creature of habit, I think that adds to it.

“Imagine what learnings I’m getting on a daily basis because of the situation that we’re in. I’m just trying to take in as much information, better myself and to be better than I was the day before and hopefully, that’ll be enough for the team.”

Williamson was able to explore in her new role in the Lionesses’ recent friendly against Belgium. She enjoyed more freedom in that game and attracted a lot of praise from fans and the media. The player has struck up an almost telepathic relationship with close friend Keira Walsh in the England midfield in recent months.

“I think my strength is to go into the middle, though not necessarily as a six – and that’s not what the team needs – but in terms of the driving forward and maybe finding ways in that position that I can bring my strengths into,” Williamson said. “That’s probably an area where it does actually suit (me) which seems ridiculous as I’m usually in my own box and not the opposition’s.

“Keira’s expertise and how good she is on the pitch is incredible. Playing with Keira and Georgia (Stanway) the other day (against Belgium) – they’ve been at City and on the same wavelength for so long, so I want to fit into that.

“I also have things I want to bring and I’ve had conversations with Keira face-to-face where I’ve said to her ‘just tell me first and foremost (what you need from me)’. I also do need to pull my weight and it’s not her responsibility to coach me through the game.

“Because I’m such a fan of Keira, when I watch her play football – even when I’m involved – I watch where she goes and what she does a lot and it’s incredible. There is an understanding there and there’s also a level of us being comfortable, so if we need to have a discussion and address something, we do. There’s also a level of trust as well in each other which I think is an advantage.”

Williamson was given the England captaincy off the back of Manchester City defender Steph Houghton’s eight-year grip on the armband. The player said that Houghton has been an influence on her career and she does compare leadership styles.

She said “The influence of all the people I’ve played under has had on me is quite a nice mix. I’ve had leaders on the pitch, off the pitch and I’ve had quite a lot of influence from all of those people. I do like observing other captains and seeing how they behave and then seeing what kind of character, person and player I am.”

Williamson could lead England out for their next game against Switzerland in Zürich on Thursday.

By Megan Garbutt

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