‘Biggest honour’: Williamson named England captain for Women’s Euros

Leah Williamson described being named as England’s captain for the European Championship this summer as “the biggest honour in football” and something that will “never sink in”.

“For me to wear an England badge would have always been enough,” the Arsenal defender said. “For me to get on the pitch and start in a major tournament is an incredible achievement and something I’ve not done yet for England, so it’s been a quick and massive change for me over the last year or so and that will really be a pinch-myself moment.”

The head coach, Sarina Wiegman, has chosen Williamson, who played only six minutes of football at the 2019 World Cup in France, to lead England’s Euros challenge with Chelsea’s Millie Bright selected as vice-captain. Williamson had been captain in the absence of the injured Steph Houghton for Wiegman’s first two camps in charge, before sustaining a hamstring injury that kept her away from international football until the Arnold Clark Cup in February.

The 25-year-old, who has been used in a double pivot with Keira Walsh in midfield under Wiegman, said: “Steph Houghton is one of this country’s all-time greats and to follow in her footsteps – and all of those special names who have led the team in the past – means so much.

“The main thing for me is performing on the pitch and making sure I do what I need to do there, and then making everyone comfortable because this is a team full of leaders and I don’t think anyone needs me to come in and be anything other than I’ve been.”

The goalkeeper Mary Earps said the players were “buzzing for her” after the announcement. “She’s been the captain for a few camps now and she’s done a great job, so it makes sense,” she said. “She’s a really passionate person on the pitch but she’s really laid back off it. She’s a great character and person.”

England are preparing for their World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia on Friday and Northern Ireland next Tuesday. Wiegman said: “This decision gives us continuity at this important final period as we build towards the tournament. It is important we give everyone clarity at this stage.

Leah has been a great leader for us and I know she will continue to set the example we need in her work on and off the pitch.

“She joins a proud list of England captains and will be following in the footsteps of the likes of the first captain, Sheila Parker, but also her predecessor Steph Houghton, who have all been integral for the women’s game.”

Houghton said: “It has been the greatest honour and privilege to captain my country for the last eight years.”

The former captain remains in a fight to regain her fitness and be in contention for the Euros.

“The past 12 months have been very difficult from a football perspective in trying to overcome a number of injuries,” she said. “With the injuries I understand and respect Sarina’s decision to name a new captain.

“The captaincy is being passed on to a very deserving and driven leader in Leah Williamson with all the attributes an England captain needs to be successful, and I have no doubt she will be. I will give my total support to Leah and will be there for her with any help or advice she may need, similarly to that I received from Casey [Stoney] and Faye [White].

“For me, I don’t feel my England story is complete and I continue to work hard with my rehabilitation in trying to make the squad.”