Leah Williamson: Increased competitiveness in women’s football is great – ‘imagine where we’ll be in 10 to 15 years!’

England picked up the first three points of their EURO2025 qualification campaign on Tuesday, securing a hard-fought victory against a spirited Republic of Ireland side that fought back to produce the better chances in the second half. The Lionesses were also able to welcome Leah Williamson back into the starting lineup, with the captain named amongst the eleven for the first time in more than twelve months.

Williamson ruptured her ACL against Manchester United last season and missed the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League as a result, before a hamstring aggrevation saw her sidelined for February friendly fixtures against Austria and Italy. The Arsenal defender was named as captain for Tuesday’s clash at the Aviva Stadium, and still donning the rainbow armband as she spoke to the press post-match, she offered an insight into just how much it means to her.

Asked to sum up her emotions, Williamson expressed that she was ‘very proud. I keep [the armband] on because it’s an important one as well. It’s nice – I just wanted to wear this badge again, and anything else would have been a bonus.’

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Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses were held to a 1-1 draw by Sweden last Friday, and while Williamson did not feature in that match, she suggested that England ‘moved the ball a lot better’ against Ireland. ‘I thought we showed more of who we are today,’ she added.

Narrowing scorelines have become a trend in women’s football over the last few years, with the quality and calibre of teams rapidly increasing since the latest EUROs. Gone are the days of six-nil drubbings, and in are the days of a structured qualification format that pits nations against teams of a similar quality. Williamson told FromTheSpot that the improvements being made within the women’s game are ‘great for the game and great for the spectators.’

‘If we’re going to bring the spectators in, then we want them to watch good football and watch good games. The growth – imagine where we’ll be in ten to fifteen years time, when all the young girls that have picked it up in these recent years actually get to an age to play on this stage,’ she concluded.