LEAH WAS BORN TO PLAY FOR ARSE­NAL

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Joshua Richards

EIGHT years ago Arse­nal beat Swedish club Umea IK in a two-legged Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal to be­come the first Bri­tish club to win the tro­phy and com­plete an un­prece­dented quadru­ple.

In the sec­ond leg at Bore­ham­wood, Arse­nal star Rachel Yankey emerged along­side a ten-year-old mas­cot by the name of Leah Wil­liamson, who had been sent to the back of the queue as the girls walked out in height or­der.

Fast for­ward from that his­toric day and Wil­liamson is set to pull on a red shirt again this week­end – but this time the former ball-girl will be hop­ing to fin­ish up with a win­ner’s medal as she looks to in­spire Arse­nal to a Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Cup fi­nal vic­tory over Notts County.

“I walked onto the pitch hold­ing hands with Rachel Yankey and I’ve got pic­tures of us to­gether at home – now I play along­side her!” said Wil­liamson. “That night was incredible; as good as it gets.

“From then on I was de­ter- mined that I would go on and play for Arse­nal in fi­nals. But you never know what can hap­pen in foot­ball, Sun­day might be the last chance I get to play in a fi­nal, so I have to make the most of it.

“I’ve been here since I was nine, play­ing foot­ball for Arse­nal is my bread and but­ter. I got to two Youth Cup fi­nals, win­ning one, and in last year’s FA Cup fi­nal I came on as a sub, so it will be nice if I’m in­volved from the start on Sun­day and play my part.”

Though the sea­son could end in tri­umph, it has not been a vin­tage one so far for the 18-year-old, with in­juries hav­ing lim­ited her to seven ap­pear­ances.

But Wil­liamson was named as the tour­na­ment’s player of the year in 2014, and she is des­per­ate to re­mind ev­ery­one of her tal­ents on Sun­day.

“I have had two ma­jor in­juries this sea­son and been out for five months al­to­gether, and when you play such a short sea­son that re­ally does feel like a long time to be out for,” she added.

“It has been a frus­trat­ing sea­son, but the cups have been good for me.

“I was look­ing at those fix­tures think­ing ‘that’s where I will get my game time’, so the Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Cup is def­i­nitely im­por­tant to me.”

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