Charging forward with Arsenal WFC's Leah Williamson
The fearsome defender joined the organization as a talented nine-year-old and quickly distinguished herself both on and off the field with her focus and determination. In this initmate conversation, she shares her thoughts on recovering from setbacks, playing without fans in the stands, and the importance of family through it all.
She may be just 23 years old, but Leah Williamson has already lived a lifetime as a footballer. A native of Milton Keynes, England, Williamson joined the Arsenal Ladies' Centre of Excellence as a precocious nine-year-old in 2006 and has been going full-throttle ever since. Not only has the versatile defender risen to the highest levels of the renowned club, but she's also made more than 15 senior appearances for England, featuring 41 times at the youth level.
Over the course of her career, Williamson has won enough championships to fill a trophy case, including the FA Women's League Cup (twice), Women's FA Cup (twice), and the FA Women’s Super League Cup. And while she knows it's a gift to continue to play during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Williamson looks forward to a future where fans crowd the stands once again, filling the air with cheers.
What's Priceless to you?
The most priceless thing in life is time and who you choose to spend it with. To me, spending it with my family is not even a question. If there's an opportunity to do that, I'm sold. It's nice to have people who want to see you as much as you want to see them.
Music is priceless, too. The feelings I get from football are sort of the same as going to a concert or putting on headphones. I come from a musical family; my grandfather had a top 40 hit back in the day, so we listen to pretty much everything. My grandma and I share a love of country music, and I love Motown because on the way to football, from the age of nine, that's what me and my mum would listen to.
Tell us about a moment that impacted your life?
Winning a League with Arsenal, my club. That changed my life in terms of getting a taste of success, doing what I've always wanted to do. And it let me write myself into Arsenal's history. It means so much for me to play for the club. If my career ended tomorrow, I would be really proud that I was able to do something like that for the club that I love.
How has the return to play without fans been for you?
The women's game is built around those fan interactions. I've gotten to know these people, and some of them have built their lives around women's football, so it's a shame they can't be there. But it can't be helped, so I can't complain.
What are your top three moments on the pitch?
The first is making my debut for England. I'll never forget that moment and everything that went with it. Winning the FA Cup at Wembley with Arsenal was another did-that-really-happen moment. And, winning my first FA Cup with Arsenal was another. It was at Milton Keynes Stadium in my hometown. I had about 100 people in the crowd there just for me, which was quite special.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take it all in a little bit more. I didn't take anything for granted, but I don't think I relaxed enough to really enjoy the good times when I was younger. You train every day for small successes. It's important to take a step back and recognize those successes along the way. There's no point if you can't celebrate them.
Tell us about a challenge you faced.
My first year at Arsenal was a great breakthrough season. I played almost every game, scored a goal against Chelsea, and ticked off the things I wanted to tick off. But, I got injured in my second year, and I was out with back-to-back injuries for almost a year. I missed a season's worth of football and was scared that I'd be forgotten and have to start all over again. Luckily, I've bounced back and it's a thing of the past that people almost don't remember anymore. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose the hard work of that first year and didn't waste any time.