Reshmin Chowdhury column: Leah Williamson deserves place alongside Bobby Moore as a great of the English game

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·4-min read
Reshmin Chowdhury column: Leah Williamson deserves place alongside Bobby Moore as a great of the English game
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Bobby Moore. Leah Williamson. They are in a league of their own: captains who have led England to success at a major international tournament.

Moore was before my time so he will forever be that iconic figure, that symbol of success with an almost mythical status. Immortal. But we are living this triumph right now and Leah will be that person for generations to come.

Will she get a statue one day? These things seem crazy to think about when you are living it in the moment, but I would not be surprised. She will continue to be that icon at the World Cup next year because she has led England to glory. It is mad to think she has achieved that at just 25.

It is even madder to think that she was not even the England captain this time last year. It was only back in April when Sarina Wiegman revealed Leah would skipper the team for the Euros — and it was a big call because, at that point, Steph Houghton could still have made it back in.

It is a huge responsibility for someone new to lead their country in a major tournament, especially when you are among other more senior and experienced members of the squad. Stepping into such a huge role, you feel that burden and not everyone would pass that test with flying colours. You need a real inner steel to take it on and not put a foot wrong.

As it has turned out, it was another Wiegman masterstroke: the vision of choosing somebody who embodies this new generation was another astute decision.

Leah has flourished in that role, but what has been lovely to see is it has perhaps not been in such an obvious way. Look at Beth Mead, who finished as top scorer and player of the tournament. She is such a huge character, very overt and loud.

What we have seen with Leah is growth in a different and remarkable way. She is also full of self-confidence, but so measured in her approach and she has almost quietly become imperious in her role.

Coming into a home Euros, the captaincy was always going to bring a huge amount of extra obligation, you are essentially a spokesperson for the team, but also an ambassador for the women’s game in general.

In Pictures | Women’s Euro 2022 Final: England fans celebrate historic victory

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Leah has risen to the challenge, she speaks so well and she gets the big picture. None of it is lost on her, the impact of what this triumph can do for generations to come. She represents everyone who has come before her and everyone there now.

She rose through the ranks at Arsenal at such a young age, surrounded by those big characters from the previous generation of England players, the likes of Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott. Her grounding has been around those heroes and she has soaked it up from all of them. She knows exactly the footsteps in which she is following and what it means to play for your country.

And then you get to her performances! She has been magnificent — and coming into the tournament we thought she was going to play in midfield! She has handled that change of position so comfortably and forged a brilliant partnership with Millie Bright. As her club manager, Jonas Eidevall, said yesterday, I do not think she has put a foot wrong.

There is a real humility to her, too, and you need that as a leader. You saw it after the final whistle, when she went straight over to Germany’s Lena Oberdorf to console her.

Her family play a huge part in that. They travel the world to watch her play, and there is a quote from Leah I love that shows you exactly what they mean to her.

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“We’re the most present people in each other’s lives,” she says. “I thought that was normal when I was younger, but as you get older you realise that not all families spend as much time together as we do. I’m grateful for that because it’s a rarity.”

That in itself tells you a lot about why she is so grounded. She is never too high, never too low, just a vision of calm.

She is also willing to learn, which she touched on after the game when she said she had listened to everyone who told her to soak everything in.

She deserves to do just that. She has led by example and just done herself, her family and her country so proud.

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