Skip to content

England Women: Leah Williamson earns first Lionesses recall since ACL injury return

Leah Williamson has returned to the Lionesses fold after overcoming ACL injury; Sarina Wiegman's side head to southern Spain for a warm-weather training camp before playing two friendly internationals; Austria and Italy will be the opposition for England’s opening fixtures of 2024

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sky Sports' Kirsty Edwards assesses what sort of lift Leah Williamson will bring to the England Women squad having won her place back following a lengthy injury lay-off

Leah Williamson has been named in an England Women's squad for the first time since returning from a serious knee injury.

England captain Williamson, who was forced to sit out last summer's Women's World Cup after suffering an ACL rupture, returned to action for the Gunners in late January after a nine-month lay-off, and is now back in Lionesses contention for the upcoming friendlies against Austria and Italy in February.

It is the first time the Arsenal defender will feature in an England selection since the team lifted the Women's Finalissima trophy in April 2023.

Jess Park, who last featured for the Lionesses in October, has also been included in the 23-player group.

England's Beth Mead celebrates with team-mate Georgia Stanway
Image: Beth Mead (left) has only recently returned to the England fold after overcoming the same knee injury as Williamson

Millie Bright and Bethany England are out injured while there is no room for Nikita Parris despite a good run of form for Manchester United.

This will be the final camp before England's qualification campaign for Euro 2025 begins in April - the draw for that competition takes place on March 5.

Head coach Sarina Wiegman said: "This camp is where the road to Euro 2025 in Switzerland begins. Playing against strong teams like Austria and Italy is just the preparation we need before we kick off our qualifying campaign in April.

Also See:

"I am really looking forward to getting back on the grass with the squad."

Wiegman discusses Williamson return, Parris omission

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sarina Wiegman calls on FIFA and UEFA to accommodate rest periods in the Women's football calendar.

On Williamson's return, Wiegman said: "It's really nice, especially for her. She's back. She's gaining minutes at Arsenal and doing well. It'll be really good to see her in camp.

"She's a very good player with great decision-making. She's been out for a number of months, so is still building. I've seen other players step up [in Williamson's absence].

Asked about Williamson's continuation as captain, the Dutchwoman added: "It's a new moment. We'll start again, and have a conversation with the group."

Sarina Wiegman says she's pleased to be able to include Williamson in selection but remains coy on captaincy
Image: Sarina Wiegman says she's pleased to be able to include Williamson in selection but remains coy on captaincy

Speaking about Nikita Parris' exclusion: "The competition up front is really high. I've made some other decisions for this camp, but I hope she can keep some consistency because we're thinking about her again.

"I had a brief conversation with her yesterday, she understands. We're in a luxury position with our options in forward positions. She knows we're watching her very closely."

On the disappointment of missing out on Paris Olympics qualification: "December was devastating. We played two incredible games - I saw rhythm in the team and performances were really good. We can't control what opponents do. We wanted to be on the other side and qualify, and we were disappointed. But we have the opportunity to play friendlies now to improve and develop. That's good too."

Analysis: England captaincy up for debate?

England's goalkeeper Mary Earps reacts after saving Spain's penalty kick during the Women's World Cup soccer final between Spain and England at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia,
Image: Mary Earps was named as England captain during December's international camp

Sky Sports' Laura Hunter:

The fact that Sarina Wiegman is able to call on Leah Williamson again is a huge boost, particularly in light of Millie Bright's extended absence.

Curiously, Wiegman stayed coy on Williamson's position as captain, presumably because she's been out of the fold for close to a year. A lot has happened since then.

Williamson is yet to play a full 90 since her injury return and competitive minutes will need managing. Perhaps Wiegman will take this opportunity to test the waters - England haven't had the luxury of many international windows playing only friendly fixtures.

The Dutchwoman was also quick to point out that others have stepped up admirably in the Arsenal defender's wake. I've particularly liked what I've seen in a leadership capacity from Georgia Stanway - she has captain energy.

Mary Earps has also come to the fore. She led the side during a difficult December and is a commanding figure, reliable too. She'd be a popular appointment.

England Women squad in full

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Man Utd), Khiara Keating (Man City), Hannah Hampton (Chelsea).

Defenders: Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Esme Morgan (Man City), Alex Greenwood (Man City), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd).

Midfielders: Grace Clinton (Tottenham), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jess Park (Man City), Keira Walsh (Barcelona), Georgia Stanway (Bayern Munich), Ella Toone (Man Utd).

Forwards: Alessia Russo (Arsenal), Rachel Daly (Aston Villa), Lauren Hemp (Man City), Chloe Kelly (Man City), Lauren James (Chelsea), Beth Mead (Arsenal).

Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp!

Sky Sports WhatsApp channel

You can now start receiving messages and alerts for the latest breaking sports news, analysis, in-depth features and videos from our dedicated WhatsApp channel!

Find out more here.

Win £250,000 with Super 6!
Win £250,000 with Super 6!

Correctly predict six scorelines to win £250,000 for free with Super 6. Entries by 3pm Saturday.

Around Sky