Youth Player of the Year Williamson reflects on 2014

Tuesday 05 May 2015
Leah Williamson with the Vauxhall England Women's Youth Player of the Year award
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Last month the nation stopped to watch England U19s' Leah Williamson hold her nerve from the penalty spot – but the Arsenal youngster had started to make her mark on the women’s game long before that remarkable night in Belfast.

The 18-year-old was chosen by her national coaches as the Vauxhall England Women’s Youth Player of the Year in December following an impressive 12 months for two Three Lions development teams.

Williamson, who picked up her award at Wembley Stadium, said: "I had a very busy year with England so to be recognised at the end of it really is lovely.

"You train and play to impress your coaches and they are the ones that pick the team, so for the award to come from them is even more special.

"It’s nice to get that level of recognition that you wouldn’t expect to get face-to-face."

The midfielder hit the headlines last month by scoring a re-taken penalty, five days after it was wrongly ruled out, that secured Mo Marley’s U19s a place at this summer’s European Championship.

Williamson smashes home the unique penalty against Norway in Belfast

Williamson smashes home the unique penalty against Norway in Belfast

But Williamson’s Three Lions journey was already well under way.

She captained the U17s to fourth place in the Euros at the end of 2013, and was then named in the very first U19s squad of 2014, playing in a 1-1 draw with Norway at St. George’s Park.

She went on to help Marley’s side qualify for the Euro finals with wins over Serbia, Finland and Denmark, against whom she scored the only goal of the game.

And then came the call she had been working towards all year.

Williamson explained: "I left the U17 age group by just missing out on World Cup qualification. That was it for me, my U17s career was over.

"But, maybe as a way of motivating us, Mo had told us there was a small chance a couple of us might go to the U20s World Cup in Canada. She said it was very rare but that there was a chance.

"When someone tells you that you can’t do something, you set your sights on it and I didn’t stop working towards it.

Leah Williamson is presented with her Vauxhall England Women

Williamson poses alongside Paul Duffy, Vauxhall’s football sponsorship activation manager

"I had quite a smooth year in terms of transition between teams and I was lucky enough to end the year at the U20s World Cup, and to play in all three games was great.

"I picked up so many experiences last year that other players wouldn’t have got so I feel very fortunate.

"It was definitely an enjoyable year."

Williamson’s fledgling career is showing no signs of slowing down, having recently been voted the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year.

"It hasn’t stopped," she said. "It has been a crazy year already and to think we are only in May.

"If you ask any player, to be recognised by your peers is one of the biggest accolades you can get.

"To know you’re respected among your peers is a massive confidence boost as well. To think that you have played against these players and they have voted for you – it’s definitely a nice feeling."

This summer’s U19s Euros will take place in Israel between 15-27 July.

The draw for the finals is on 20 May.

By Glenn Lavery