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Leah Williamson is determined England’s success will have a long-term impact

England captain Leah Williamson hopes the Lioness can “add longevity success” after a historic year for women’s football.

The Arsenal defender led the senior England team to their first major trophy since 1966, winning the European Championship in July that year thanks to extra-time winner Chloe Kelly to beat Germany 2-1 at Wembley.

The team capped off a successful year with a 1-1 draw against Norway on Tuesday, extending their unbeaten streak to 26 matches, and now their focus is on the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Williamson was speaking after the unveiling of a graphic at Wembley featuring Helen Hardy, founder of Manchester Laces – Manchester’s first inclusive women’s and non-binary football club – and the England captain is determined to ensure their Euro 2022 legacy continues from amateurs to the highest levels of the game .

The 25-year-old told the PA news agency: “I think we were so aware of the platform we had in the summer and we wanted to win for us, of course we did but we knew if we won and the inspiration that will be there for everyone else is off scale.

“I’m glad there are spaces like this (for grassroots football) and I want more of them because the danger is that we inspired all these people and then they had nowhere else to go.

“I’m glad the clubs are open to accepting them and it’s the right time because these things (football clubs) are places where people don’t show up and they don’t get rejected.

“When we go to the World Cup as a team next year, we’ll be competitive, that’s our only goal, but adding that longevity to success will be powerful beyond measure if the team can achieve it.”

Women’s soccer is constantly evolving and off-pitch research continues to enable the best possible performances on the pitch.

WSL team Manchester City announced last year that they had partnered with the English Institute of Sport to look at how health is understood by players, while this season some teams have changed their shorts from white to a different color to enhance comfort while playing .

Research is recently underway to see if soccer kit, such as boots and balls, could be developed to prevent female players from sustaining injuries, which Williamson welcomes.

“I think the next thing you do when you elevate a game is that everything that happens around it is also enhanced,” she added.

“I’ve pointed this out before, but the fact that the game hasn’t been played in 50 years means you have 50 years less research or injury research.

“Our bodies are not the same as men’s, so all this information cannot be transferred.

“I’m happy to see profits in a place where research, investment, ensuring game stability and protecting players as much as possible is being done.

“I think in terms of performance, everything has to be as good as possible to get the best results for the players playing, and things are going in the right direction.”

Leah Williamson unveils a mural by artist Charlotte Archer (right) on the Spanish Steps at Wembley Stadium that features Helen Hardy (center) founder of Manchester Laces

(Kieran Cleeves/PA Wire)

Changes have also been seen in the WSL with a huge increase in season ticket sales and attracting huge crowds, including 47,367 people setting a new league record attendance when Williamson’s Arsenal beat Tottenham at the Emirates in September.

The Gunners are on the hunt for their first WSL title since 2019 and came close last season but lost by a point to Chelsea on the final day of the season.

So far this season, they have lost just one game in seven games to finish second in the league and Williamson, who has been sidelined with a foot injury, is happy with her team’s performance so far.

“I’m glad that we started the season in the same way as last year and with the same intensity,” she added.

“Everyone wants to play for the crest which is really important when we’re attracting all these new fans, but actually the performances on the pitch have been good and we’re still playing well as a team, which is the most important thing.”


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