Leah Williamson enjoying England women’s place on centre stage

Williamson leads England into this summer’s European Championship

Achieving a ‘level playing field’ is a bit of a tired cliché in women’s football these days, but England’s women are going one better – literally.

This week marked the Lionesses’ first gathering ahead of July’s home Euros and a relatively rare instance of men’s and women’s senior squads using St George’s Park simultaneously, with Gareth Southgate’s men prepping for their June Nations League fixtures.

Sarina Wiegman’s side have been allocated the facility’s prime pitch for the duration of their short camp, which is, declared captain Leah Williamson, exactly how things should be.

“It’s obviously something that’s important,” she said. “We’re on a journey, women’s football is on a journey. 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, if you’d gone back a couple of years this wouldn’t be the case and that’s just factual. So the fact that it is now is a big step in the right direction.”

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England kick off their Euros campaign at Old Trafford against Austria on 6 July.

Williamson, who had regularly stood in as captain for the injured Steph Houghton, was handed the permanent job by Wiegman in April and is motivated by the idea that the novelty may never wear off.

“I hope it’s always [an amazing feeling]. I hope it is because it means I care enough about it and I’m giving the role the respect it deserves.

“But it’s weird, it’s not something on a daily basis that you think about, and then those moments when you do walk out of the tunnel it is special. Nothing has ever compared to it in my life, definitely.”

England’s women are training at St George’s Park

Wiegman’s 28-player camp will be complete with the arrival of Houston Dash star Rachel Daly.

Former skipper Houghton, who has spent most of the season with Manchester City recovering from an achilles injury and Chelsea star Fran Kirby, who battled fatigue issues at the end of the WSL season, participated in part of Tuesday’s training session.

The Dutch boss also welcomed City’s Chloe Kelly, who bounced back from an ACL injury to make a remarkable end-of-season return for Gareth Taylor’s side.

With only 23 places available on the final squad, three of which must go to goalkeepers, Wiegman faces a difficult decision ahead.

It isn’t, insisted Williamson, something that’s troubling the players.

“This is the first time I’ve thought about it,” she said. “I think that’s credit to everybody, but also being in an amongst this sort of setup ahead of something as bit as this, you’d do anything to be involved in any way you could really.

“So I think right now that’s about just settling in and everybody making sure they enjoy what they are doing, but also giving a good account of themselves.”

And while Williamson admitted she hasn’t given any motivational speeches to her squad yet, she was happy to urge fans to snap up the last remaining tickets to her squad’s matches this summer.

She added: “I think the mentality of women’s football is we’re happy with where we are but we always want more, so I can assure you that once that first game kicks off and it’s sold out, that will be what we expect.

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“That will be the goal all the time. When you say that first game at the Euros at Old Trafford sold out it’s people taking it seriously.

“We’re trying to convince people that this is something people want to see and watch. That kind of stuff helps.”

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