She may already have an FA Cup winners medal to her name, but Milton Keynes footballer Leah Williamson is hungry for more, especially with the chance to run out at Wembley stadium for this year’s final.
Former gymnast Williamson has been with Arsenal since the age of eight but 2014 was truly the year that she established herself in the women’s game.
Domestically her performances saw the midfielder named the FA WSL Continental Cup Player of the Year while internationally she was part of the England women’s team which competed at the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The accolades continued this year with former Ousedale School pupil Williamson named England Women’s Youth Player of the Year in January while last month she signed her first senior contract with the Gunners.
Last year’s FA Women’s Cup winners Arsenal have again made it through to the quarter-finals, with the 13-time winners set to face Chelsea on April 12.
And life-long fan Williamson admits confidence is flowing after finding her feet in the team.
I’ve learnt to be more confident in myself and my ability.Leah Williamson
“Last year at Arsenal was my breakthrough year and it felt like it was a long time coming, I’ve been at the club since I was eight,” she said.
“It was my first senior year last year and it was a bit of a rollercoaster and all went past quite quickly, I feel like I’m ready to face anything now.
“I’ve learnt to be more confident in myself and my ability, you are where you are for a reason, there’s so much to work on compared to the experience but I know I’ve got to believe in myself and keep going.
“This season, I want to build on what I did last year and have as much as an impact as I can and build on the work I’ve already started.
“Last season wasn’t our most successful, but it was great to retain the FA Cup which is effectively our cup.
“The women’s game is growing and everyone knows its growing and the FA Cup final being played at Wembley is a massive step.
“It’s a push in the right direction and the occasion to play at Wembley is everyone footballers dream, man or woman, its a momentous day and everyone will be aiming for success in the FA Cup just a little bit more.”
Williamson is one of 100 athletes selected for the 2015 SSE Next Generation programme, a scheme that identifies potential Commonwealth Games and Olympic medallists of the future, providing them with financial help and mentoring from elite athletes like Olympic medal-winning diver Leon Taylor.
She isn’t the only local representative either with Milton Keynes Athletics Club javelin star Freddie Curtis also chosen for the scheme.
Last year 20-year-old Curtis reached the World Junior Championships only to fail to register a legal throw, something he is eager to put right this season.
“I’m very serious about progressing in the sport,” he said. “I feel as though I have got one-shot and will give this everything I have. I don’t want to have any regrets when I look back in ten years time.
“My 2014 season was tough. I went to the World Junior Championships and I had three foul throws which means I didn’t qualify for the final.
“I realised that I needed to address a few psychological issues. I ironed all that out with the help of a psychologist and working on my technique with the coaches.
“Now 2015 will be a year of progression but my main goal right now is looking ahead to the Olympics in Rio 2016.”
SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen