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Leah Williamson named England captain for European Championships

Leah Williamson about to kick a ball for Arsenal
Leah Williamson led England to trophy success in the Arnold Clark Cup

Arsenal defender Leah Williamson has been named as England’s captain for this summer’s European Championship.

Williamson was the team’s skipper for recent games including the Arnold Clark Cup with Steph Houghton out injured.

Manchester City defender Houghton has not played for England since February 2021 and so the change in captain is to give the team continuity.

“This is an incredibly proud moment for me and my family,” Williamson said.

The 25-year-old added: “I am honoured to be asked to lead us at the Euros. Steph Houghton is one of this country’s all-time greats and to follow in her footsteps – and all of those special names who have led the team in the past – means so much.

“Although I will be wearing the armband, I know we have a squad full of leaders who share my pride and passion in playing for our country. Whether I am captain or not, I will never take anything for granted and will always do my best for England every time I pull on the shirt.”

Millie Bright will be the vice-captain with Ellen White third in line.

The Lionesses kick-off their Euros campaign in the opening match against Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July. As well as Austria, England will face Norway and Northern Ireland in Group A.

England manager Sarina Wiegman said: “This decision gives us continuity at this important final period as we build towards the tournament. It is important we give everyone clarity.

“Leah has been a great leader for us and I know she will continue to set the example we need in her work on and off the pitch.”

Houghton, meanwhile, is focusing on her recovery from an Achilles injury in order to be fit for the summer. She has also released a statement about relinquishing the armband to Williamson.

“The past 12 months have been very difficult from a football perspective,” Houghton said in a lengthy statement on Twitter. “In trying to overcome a number of injuries, Sarina and the England staff have been hugely supportive but with the injuries, I understand and respect Sarina’s decision to name a new captain.

“The captaincy is being passed on to a very deserving and driven leader in Leah Williamson, with all the attributes an England captain needs to be successful and I have no doubt she will be.

“I will give total support to Leah and will be there for her, with any help or advice she may need, similarly to that I received from Casey [Stoney] and Faye [White].”

‘A bright, young talent’

Analysis by BBC football commentator Vicki Sparks

After consistently deflecting questions about the captaincy for the Euros, Wiegman has finally put the speculation to bed. Quite simply we just don’t know whether Steph Houghton is going to be fit for the tournament.

Wiegman has decided that in the build-up and the preparation it is better for the players to know who will be the skipper rather than waiting until the last minute. That does not mean Houghton won’t be involved, hopefully her fitness will allow her to be. But in terms of the captaincy, that has been given to Leah Williamson.

She is such a bright, young talent. She was tipped by Phil Neville during his time in charge of England as a future England captain. That moment has come at a major tournament.

Niamh Charles and Bethany England
Charles and England were part of the Chelsea squad that won the FA Cup in December

Charles and England out of World Cup qualifiers

Niamh Charles and Beth England will miss England’s World Cup qualifier in North Macedonia on Friday after testing positive for Covid.

The Chelsea forwards returned positive samples in pre-camp testing and have not been in contact with their England team-mates at St George’s Park.

Assistant coach Arjan Veurink will also miss the game after a positive test.

All three may be able to rejoin the set-up in time for the 12 April qualifier in Northern Ireland.

England are five points clear at the top of Group D with six wins from six matches and a goal difference of plus 53.

Victories in their next two games would guarantee their place at next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Wiegman has opted not to call up replacements for Charles and England, with 22 players in camp.

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