Fara Williams exclusive: "This the most resourceful England team we’ve ever had"
England legend Fara Williams tells FFT that six or seven teams can Euro 2022 – but that this is one of the best England sides we've ever had
Women's football has come a long way since England hosted Euro 2005 – and all-time record appearance-maker Fara Williams says that the players England have now could go and win the tournament.
FourFourTwo went to Carnaby Street, which had been transformed to celebrate 100 days until Euro 2022 begins, complete with Fussball tables and decorations. Fara was there to chat to us all about how far the game had come even since she retired and which players to look out for this summer.
Apparently, this couldn't possibly be the best England team ever… because Fara's not in it.
What are the biggest differences between the game now and back in 2005?
It’s turned professional – that’s the most obvious! There’s more sponsorship involved, more money in the game, more of a spotlight and the girls now are full-time. In 2005, I was training in a park, getting myself in physical condition to go and compete against the best in Europe. So it’s certainly changed a lot since, massively. The investment across all nations since 2005 has been massive.
The fan engagement has improved, too…
Yeah, the difficulty is that the fan engagement is there and the players want to be paid more – a sustainable salary – but that has to come from fans. We’ve been so used to giving out tickets for free and trying to get fans through the gates and we’re not going to become sustainable until people are willing to pay. People will pay £50 to watch Mo Salah but they need to be prepared to pay the same to watch Fran Kirby, to help grow the game. The fan base is great and people are prepared to pay for it. That’s not being negative, it’s looking at the game as a whole. They’re still paying the same that they paid in 2005.
The record attendance for a women’s game was England against Germany in 2019. Were you there for that one? And how much has the game come along, even since then?
I was watching, I was there. Yeah, we’ve been professional for a bit longer now and the women’s game is on a journey. Just because we now have this tag as professional, it’s going to take time for us to see what a professional looks like. Some people now are turning professional at 25, I turned professional at the age of 30. With the amateur mentality, you had to juggle your lifestyle: now they can focus on being a professional athlete. In the WSL, you can see how competitive it is, too. Six or seven nations could win the Euros, now.
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Who’s going to win the Euros?
Look I’d love England to win the Euros and I think they’ve got a good chance. And since 2015, we’ve been saying that England have a great chance. In 2017, we came so close and I was the one who made the mistake for that. I gifted the Netherlands their second goal. In 2019, we got so close at a semi-final. We are close and I genuinely believe that we have such a good balance now, with some of the younger players getting better exposure to international football. I believe that Sarina Weigman is key for us, too, with what she’s brought to the team, that ruthlessness, that winning mentality, that puts us up with the other teams.
Who else are the danger teams?
I think Sweden, actually. They’re dark horses, no one is talking about them but they beat us in the play-off in 2019, lost the Olympics on penalties. Germany always knows how to come to tournaments, they’re well prepared and they always give a good account of themselves. I think the French have the most exciting attack but they always let me down – in the nicest possible way, they’re full of talent but never quite fulfil that. And Spain, they’re pretty much the Barcelona team. They’re phenomenal. It’s gonna be exciting, just for football fans in general. I’d encourage people to just buy tickets for any game, regardless of whether it’s England.
Is this the strongest England side you’ve ever seen?
No. Has to be one I was in! It’s difficult to say, I’ve played in so many talented teams but we didn’t have the resources. Is this the most resourceful England team we’ve ever had? 100%. They have the backing of the FA, they’re full-time professionals, fitter, faster than any team I played in. But I played with some phenomenal technical and tactical players. I’m not sure they’ve got the individuals that were there in my time. But they have a great balance and the best squad depth of any England team I’ve seen.
Which players would you say are the ones to watch?
Lauren Hemp for me is going to set this tournament alight if she can keep her form. She’s such an exciting young player, it’s going to be her first tournament and when you go to a first tournament with no pressure, you feel that freedom. She’s a direct wide player, someone who’ll be important for England… and Vivianne Miedema is my other pick, she’s the ultimate, she’s my favourite player. She makes the game look so easy. If you’re a football person, she’s one footballer – and I’m saying footballer, not female player – she’s the very best out there.
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Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.
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