Leah Williamson ready to be leader for England after special night as captain

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Leah Williamson said she would tell her younger self to “stay in the moment a bit more” after she captained England for the first time in the team’s 8-0 defeat of North Macedonia on Friday night.

“I’ll tell her to enjoy it a little bit more along the way,” said the Arsenal player. “I was so stressed about becoming the person I wanted to be at the end of my journey, and maybe didn’t enjoy the road so much. That’s why I wanted to enjoy today, because it’s a special day. And if you’d have said it [you’d be England captain] to that little girl playing football, she probably wouldn’t have believed you.”

Related: England pick apart North Macedonia to give Sarina Wiegman perfect start

The Lionesses’s new manager, Sarina Wiegman, has yet to decide who will wear the armband long term, but Steph Houghton would stay in the role for this month’s World Cup qualifiers, with Luxembourg up next on Tuesday. However, a late ankle injury before Friday’s kick-off sidelined the Manchester City captain and Wiegman turned to the 24-year-old Williamson instead.

“I laughed, I thought I was in trouble,” Williamson said on being told she would wear the armband. Since making her debut in a World Cup qualifier against Russia in 2019, Williamson has played 21 times for the Lionesses and was a part of the Team GB squad that reached the quarter-finals of the Tokyo Olympics.

“I think what I’ve learnt over the last three years, especially since the World Cup in France, is I needed to become that reliable, just take some responsibility,” she said. “I’ve grown up a lot and, I don’t know, I’ve just stayed the same, tried to be who I am but take a bit more responsibility and maybe that’s contributed towards my progress.”

Williamson features as a centre-back for club and country but has filled in in midfield. With defensive midfielder Keira Walsh injured Williamson sat deep in a midfield three with Georgia Stanway and Ella Toone. She was “not happy” with her performance in possession.

“I always just try to be whatever the team needs me to be and today that was that role,” she said. “You’re a lot more involved in the game [as a defensive midfielder] and I just tried to be present, basically, and to make myself known defensively and on the ball as well. I always enjoy when I go in there because it’s a new challenge, but not taking away from the difference that it is to centre-half, so it takes some time to adjust, but it was an OK day and I worked hard, so I hope that showed.”

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