WHEN it comes to the pressure of going from a handful of World Cup minutes to leading the Lionesses at the biggest Women’s Euros to date, Leah Williamson is taking it in her stride.
The in-form captain is taking inspiration from a mix of skippers – past and present across sports, including England cricket hero Ben Stokes.
Williamson, 25, said: “The influence all the people I've played under has had on me is quite a nice mix.
“I've had leaders on the pitch and off and quite a lot of influence from those people.
“I like observing other captains and seeing how they behave and then seeing what kind of character, person and player I am.
“For example, I watched Ben Stokes the other day and I was listening to his presentation and what he wants from his team.
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“It's not the same conversation (I might have), but in terms of those little nuggets of information, I think it really helped.”
Williamson has played a key role in the Lionesses’ unbeaten run under Sarina Wiegman developing a sturdy partnership with Keira Walsh in midfield.
During a turbocharged second half against Holland last time out, the duo pulled the strings in the centre of the park with Fran Kirby and substitute Georgia Stanway.
They helped their team-mates trounce the reigning Euros champs 5-1.
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A result that was a far cry from the 3-0 loss England suffered against the Dutch side in August five years ago, as they marched to Euros glory under their former boss Wiegman.
When asked about the burden of going from a six-minute 2019 World Cup appearance to being a captain at this year’s Euros, the Arsenal star added: “It's funny.
"On paper, it looks like a pressurised situation, but I don't feel that.
“I'm still finding my way with it, and I'm not pretending to know all the answers or pretending to be the readiest I've ever been.
"I've got processes in place I've been using in my career for dealing with pressure and things like that.
“It's not that I've been put on a pedestal, I'm just the same, it’s just I have this extra responsibility.
“And I take it more as a responsibility rather than pressure.
“I do feel like I would give anything to get on the pitch (with England), so I don't intend to waste a second now not enjoying it.”
Williamson’s appearances on the international stage for Wiegman have seen the WSL ace play in a more advanced role in contrast to her central defensive position for the Gunners.
Playing with Keira and Georgia the other day (against Belgium) they've been on the same wavelength for so long. I want to fit into that.
It is a move that has proved to be a productive one for the national side with the team retaining more possession against their rivals in recent fixtures.
This includes England’s victory against their Dutch opponents in front of a 19,365-strong crowd at Elland Road.
Of her midfield role, Williamson who will wear England’s number 8 shirt at the Euros, said: “The opportunities I have to better myself are incredible.
"I want to be what the team needs me to be and to be good enough for them.
“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 driving forward and maybe finding ways in that (defensive midfield) position, that’s something I can bring my strengths into.
“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 one.
“Playing with Keira and Georgia the other day (against Belgium) they've been on the same wavelength for so long. I want to fit into that.
“I 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)'.
“But I also do need to pull my weight and it's not her responsibility to coach me through the game.”
Williamson, 26, will lead her team against Austria in their July 6 Euros curtain-raiser in front of a sell-out 73,200 Old Trafford crowd.
And over 450,000 tickets have been sold for games across the tournament, double the numbers shifted the 2017 contest held in Holland.
The WSL star, who made her senior England debut in a World Cup qualifier defeat of Russia in 2017, credits her family for the role they played in her rise to the top.
And the Buckinghamshire-born player who grew up in Milton Keynes hopes to repay their faith by delivering on the pitch.
The Lionesses star, who has 27 senior caps, added: “When my family came to France (for the 2019 World Cup) I had 10 or more people coming to every single game there and I played under 30 minutes.
“But it doesn't change (anything) as they would be just as proud of me and for them to be able really to enjoy it now is nice.”
“I've told them I can never repay the investment they've made in me, the money, the time and everything.
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“I can never ever repay that other than giving them experiences whether it's them coming to indoor games to watch me or coming to Old Trafford with 70,000 fans so they can enjoy the day.
“I'm happy for them that they're getting to experience that a little more now.”
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