Milton Keynes-born Leah Williamson to be awarded Freedom of the City after Lionesses' amazing win

The incredible Lionesses captain Leah Williamson has been awarded Freedom of the City by Milton Keynes Council.

By Sally Murrer
Monday, 1st August 2022, 11:34 am

The 21-year-old MK born and bred footballer is the first person to receive the award since Milton Keynes achieved city status.

Raised in Newport Pagnell and a former pupil at Portfields School, Leah and her team have been described as an inspiration to everyone.

Today the leader of MK Council, Cllr Pete Marland, said: “It is the most amazing achievement for England to become Champions of Europe.

MK born and bred Leal Williamson has been awarded Freedom of the City

"I hope the win will have a lasting impact on women’s sport and I’m sure it has both inspired a new generation of women and girls to go out and take part in whatever their chosen sport is, as well as changing the attitude of many others to women’s sport in general.”

Pete added: “The Lionesses are an inspiration to everyone and have shown that through teamwork, ability and hard work, anything is possible."

Leah began playing football at the age of six. She told the FA in an itnerview: “I started playing football at the end of one of my gymnastics sessions. My coach threw a ball out for a bit of fun and all the girls just ran around after it.

“But I was actually quite good and I really enjoyed it so I went home and told my mum that I wanted to play football.”

Mk Stadium hosted four of the UEFA matches

Leah joined a boys team, Scots Youth in Bletchley.

"The coach said he wasn’t going to give me any sympathy just because I was a girl; if I wasn’t good enough I wouldn’t be able to join the team.

“After one training session I think it was clear that I was good enough. And that was it; I was their star striker for the next year. And I met my best friend in the world at Scot Youth so it was a pretty special time for me, looking back.”

Even so, as the only girl in the team, Leah had to put up with hecklers from the sidelines.

“I used to get abuse from the sidelines every week,” she said. “My mum made me wear a gumshield to protect my teeth because everybody wanted to kick lumps out of me, but it didn’t put me off.

“I knew some people were getting angry on the sidelines that a girl was the best player on the pitch, but for me what was better than matching their aggression was winning the game.”

"You couldn’t get me out of my football kit. I absolutely loved it...“That year at Scot Youth made me a stronger person, 100 per cent.”

In 2006 Leah joined Arsenal and worked her way up through the development teams to make her senior team debut in the 2016-17 season.

As part of MK’s bid to host UEFA womens matches, the council promised to increase the number of girls playing the game and double the number of trained women’s football coaches in the city.

Council leader Pete now hopes her story will inspire other girls to take up the male-dominated sport.

"The Lionesses’ win is just the beginning of unlocking so much potential, so if you’ve been inspired, today is the day you can also make a difference and be part of a winning legacy, he said.

Pete added: "Like many others, I never thought I would be able to say that England have won a major football tournament in my lifetime, he said.

I am so proud that Milton Keynes hosted four matches and played our part in the greatest achievement in English football since 1966, including attracting a full house at Stadium:MK for the second semi-final. I’d like to thank all the teams and supporters that made those matches so special. Yet again, we as a city had the vision and confidence to back the tournament when many others did not.

“Bobby Moore and Leah Williamson, that is good company as the only two England football captains ever to lift a major international trophy.

"Obviously, we are immensely proud that Leah is from Milton Keynes, and I think it would be totally appropriate that the very first person to be given the Freedom of the New City of Milton Keynes is the first woman to lead a national side to international honours and is from MK. I have asked that the council start the process of bestowing the honour on her.”