LEAH WAS BORN TO PLAY FOR ARSENAL
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.”