With England on the verge of setting a new attendance record for a women’s match in this country, the players in this week’s squad are ready to write their names in Wembley history.
But Leah Williamson has beaten her team-mates to the punch: her name is already etched, quite literally, in the brickwork of this famous old stadium.
“Every year my mum and dad buy a joint Christmas present for me and my brother and one year it just so happened to be a Wembley stone,” she explained.
- A Women's International
- 5.30pm, Saturday 9 November
- Wembley Stadium connected by EE
- Live on BBC One
A rising star in Arsenal’s academy, Williamson was already on her way to becoming a professional player – not that she realised it at the time – and her Wembley stone helped to further sow the seeds of what has been a hitherto successful career.
“My parents are really good at doing thoughtful things like that,” said Williamson.
“When they bought the stone, there wasn’t really the opportunity for women to play at Wembley. But now there is.
“I don’t think they ever wanted me to give up on that dream and having my name at the stadium was maybe meant to be the first step to me one day playing here. It’s very special to me.”
"It's like nothing else. Everything that English football is built on is here." @leahcwilliamson, ready to embrace Wembley 🤩
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) November 3, 2019
And just as her parents had hoped, the stone is simply the beginning of Williamson’s Wembley story.
The 22-year-old has been to the national stadium on a number of occasions as both a player and a fan. Her first match as a spectator was Fabio Capello’s first match in charge of the England Men’s team, a 1-0 win over Switzerland in 2008.
She was then among the record 80,023 fans who watched USA defeat Japan to win gold at London 2012.
Williamson was also in the crowd the last time the Lionesses played at Wembley, in 2014, just two years before she stepped onto the hallowed turf for the first time, when she was a substitute in Arsenal’s cup final victory over Chelsea.
Now Williamson is ready to represent her country under the arch for what she hopes to be the first of many times.
“There are certain moments in your career that happen that you know you just have to be a part of,” she said. “This is one of them. I know a few of the girls played here against Germany a few years ago but this time it feels different.
“We’re breaking down barriers, getting bigger and bigger attendances and constantly raising the bar, so playing at Wembley feels like the next logical step for this team. The fact that we’ve sold out proves that it’s the right time to do it.
“I’ve been here to watch England as a fan so to be in with a chance of getting onto the pitch gives me chills. It’s probably one of the most special things that will happen to us in our careers.”
Read more from Williamson in Saturday’s official matchday programme.