Leah Williamson lives a stone’s throw from the Stadium MK in Milton Keynes and is a Gooner through-and-through. To say that this Sunday’s Women’s FA cup final is going to be a special one for the Williamson family would be an understatement.
MK Dons’ ground is the venue that will host the showpiece event in women’s football and the local girl is confident it can be a place filled with happy memories once again.
Williamson captained the under 17’s to a cup double last year which saw the youngster play in her hometown of Milton Keynes in front of 1,000 supporters - half of whom were friends and family.
One thing is for sure, when Leah steps out for her first senior Women’s FA cup final this Sunday, there will be more than 1,000 spectators in the crowd - with 10 times that number expected this time around.
Williamson joined Arsenal Ladies’ centre of excellence in 2006 as a nine-year-old, where she showed real promise as she progressed through the age groups.
Having already captained England at both under-15 and under-17 level, Williamson is already making strides in the under-19 age groups.
Kelly Smith, Leah’s idol when she was growing up and a player she tries to base her game on, has already spoken out to heap praise on the Arsenal youngster.
Smith told BT Sport: “She is only 17 and already a very hot prospect. She is a versatile player, having played at centre-half, left-back and midfield.
“She plays beyond her years, and is so relaxed and composed. I believe she is going to be a big player most certainly for Arsenal and England.”
Having already having started seven games for the Gunners so far this season, Smith said Williamson has had a huge impact on the team.
The Arsenal captain said: “She has stepped in and been outstanding for us and is definitely one to watch for the future.”
Praise indeed from someone described as the greatest-ever footballer that England Women have produced.
The praise does not stop there, though, and the manager who gave Williamson her senior debut this season, Shelley Kerr, also speaks highly of her teenage prodigy.
“She is one of the most talented players in the country and to think she is only 17 is quite remarkable,” Kerr said.
I just feel like I’m coming home"
“Her game understanding is unbelievable, she has athleticism, mobility and is great in the air.
“She already has great communication skills and has the potential to be a future England captain.”
Former England women’s skipper Casey Stoney describes Williamson as having “a mature head on young shoulders” and also echoed Kerr’s view of Leah being a captain-in-waiting for the national team.
Despite having been spoken so highly of in the women’s game, Williamson remains grounded and focused.
Having just sat her A-Level exams in maths, history and PE, the young Gooner is still not old enough to sign a professional contract and is dependent on her mum to drive her back and forth to training.
Having grown up watching Faye White lift the FA Cup for Arsenal Ladies numerous times, the stage is set for Williamson to get her hands on her first piece of silverware in her hometown this Sunday.
“I just feel like I’m coming home, I have a lot of people that will be there, I feel like I will be amongst friends,” she said.
“Watching Arsenal Ladies over the last 10 years play in cup finals, it’s like a dream come true for me to be a part of one now.”
Arsenal ladies play Everton at MK Dons Stadium on Sunday May 31, 4:30pm kick-off - tickets still available.