Alamy Stock Photo England captain and Arsenal star Leah Williamson.
On the up
England captain highlights importance of 'respect' shown to team ahead of home Euros
Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses trained on the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch at St George’s Park on Tuesday.

ENGLAND WOMEN’S CAPTAIN Leah Williamson has spoken of the importance of the respect being shown towards the team after they had priority access to St George’s Park’s main pitch.

Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses, who are preparing for this summer’s home Euros, trained on the Sir Bobby Charlton pitch at the Burton-upon-Trent base on Tuesday while Gareth Southgate’s men’s team, ahead of Nations League fixtures, did so elsewhere on the site.

Williamson said: “This is obviously something that’s important.

“We’re on a journey, women’s football is on a journey and we’re on the up, and we fight for that as much as we can in all areas.

But the respect that we’ve been given, and the respect that our tournament has been given, bearing in mind we have a Euros in the summer, and the preparation and the facilities that we have access to… if you’d have gone back a couple of years this wouldn’t have been the case, and that’s just factual.

“So the fact that that is now (happening) is a big step in the right direction.”

Asked if it felt like this England Women team – whose session on the pitch on Monday was watched from the sidelines by Southgate and his skipper Harry Kane – would be the best prepared any have been for a major tournament, Williamson said: “Yes, I think so.

“Like I said, we’re on a journey and getting more recognition and more investment and stuff like that, and I think year-on-year you just notice an increase.

“It comes down to things like money, but also that respect, and that level of respect that the women’s game is getting, from the work that we’re doing and the people that are coming through the doors to watch us.

“And there’s no stone left unturned basically in these preparations, and hopefully it will put us in good stead.”

Wiegman currently has a 28-player provisional squad for the tournament that gets underway when England play Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July.

That party is due to be cut down to a final 23 next week, before warm-up matches take place against Belgium at Molineux, Holland at Elland Road and Switzerland in Zurich on 16, 24 and 30 June respectively.

Williamson, who had been skippering in the absence of Steph Houghton, was named as captain for the tournament in April.

And on having the armband, the 25-year-old Arsenal player said: “It’s weird – on a daily basis it’s not really something you think about, and then those moments when you do walk out of the tunnel, it is special.

Nothing has ever compared to that in my life, definitely.”

Houghton, who has been recovering from ankle surgery and not played since January, has been included in the provisional 28.

“It’s no different to how it always has been,” Williamson said of having the Manchester City defender, England’s captain for their last three major tournaments, back in the fold.

“Steph is obviously a great addition for the team and just raises the competitiveness of the squad another level really. So it’s been great, and fingers crossed everything stays well for her and she’s fit and healthy.”

Houghton and Fran Kirby, out of action since February due to a fatigue-related issue, took part in most of the team’s session on Tuesday before sitting a section out, as planned.

Another player managing load is Kirby’s Chelsea team-mate Jess Carter, who did individual work away from the group.

The only player in the 28 who has not reported for this week’s first phase of Euros preparation is Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly, having played for her club at the weekend – she is set to join up with England from next week.

Vera Pauw’s Republic of Ireland will be watching this summer’s action from afar, while Kenny Shiels’ Northern Ireland contest their first-ever major tournament in England 2022.

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