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Leah Williamson in the mix as Sarina Wiegman considers full-time England captain

Leah Williamson file photo
(Image credit: Mike Egerton)

Leah Williamson will keep the armband for England’s World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Latvia but manager Sarina Wiegman will take her time to decide on a permanent captain.

Arsenal’s Williamson was given the honour for last month’s big wins over North Macedonia and Luxembourg after Steph Houghton had to withdraw with an ankle injury.

Houghton and reigning world player of the year Lucy Bronze remain sidelined, and Wiegman wants a chance to assess all her options before she makes a decision.

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The Dutchwoman, who took up her role last month, said: “(I’m) not close yet. I think Leah does very well. She plays well, she’s very good in the group so she does a very good job.

“But we haven’t had Steph and Lucy Bronze in our group and they’ve captained this team before. So we’ll just take a little time and, when everyone is fit, performs well, comes in the squads, then I can see how everyone relates and what’s best for the team.”

England and Northern Ireland are two of three teams in their group alongside Austria that have a 100 per cent record after two qualifying matches.

England beat Northern Ireland 6-0 in a friendly in February but Wiegman sees Saturday’s match as a step up.

England Women are playing at Wembley for the first time since a defeat by Germany two years ago

England Women are playing at Wembley for the first time since a defeat by Germany two years ago (John Walton/PA)

She said: “I expect a harder game than we had last month. I think we’ll still be the team that will have possession lots of the time. Obviously it’s very nice to play at Wembley and to have a big crowd so we’re really looking forward to it.

“Northern Ireland has qualified for the Euros for the first time, which is really good. They have been in transition a little bit. I’m really excited to get to the game tomorrow.”

This will be England’s first match at Wembley since more than 70,000 fans turned up for a friendly defeat by Germany two years ago, and their first competitive game since the stadium reopened in 2007.

Williamson hopes it is a sign of things to come, saying: “It’s maybe something we thought would happen a bit more frequently following on from the Germany game so for it to finally come back around and it to be the first competitive fixture I think is a milestone for us.

“Hopefully the performance will match the occasion. I think it’s the right time. I think the women’s game’s got to that level where we can bring the people in to see it.

“It’s a good day for us as players, it helps us grow, and for the country as a whole I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to celebrate high-performance sport on the biggest stage.”

The women’s game is still reeling from the shocking allegations of abuse in the NWSL in the United States, and England’s players are planning a show of support at Wembley.

Williamson said: “We’ve discussed it as a team and we want to show our solidarity if we can. There’ll be a meeting tomorrow. It has to be official.

“We’ll speak to Northern Ireland and UEFA and the officials and see what can be done. But it’s definitely something that obviously is on our radars and something that the girls believe in.”

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