Leah Williamson has been named the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year 2015.
Leah is destined for a long and successful career in the game but, whatever happens in the future, it is unlikely she will ever relive a recent experience which stunned everyone in the game.
The 18-year-old was at the centre of one of the most bizarre incidents in football history when, having converted a late penalty to secure England a place in the European Under 19 finals, the goal was disallowed.
The referee ruled that England players had encroached in the area but rather than awarding a re-take of the spot kick he awarded opponents Norway a free kick, and the game ended 2-1.
After an appeal by the English FA, the decision was overturned and in an even more ridiculous twist it was deemed a replay (lasting a total of 65 seconds) should take place the next day.
It was certainly an unusual 24 hours for young Leah who would again be charged with the task of putting away the penalty which, if converted would result in a 2-2 draw, enough to send England to the finals in Israel this summer.
To her absolute credit, the young Arsenal midfielder held her nerve and buried the spot kick which will live with her, and others, for the rest of her life. After playing in the shortest ‘replay’ in history, Leah commented: “They were the longest 24 hours of my life. It is just one of those things you never forget.”
Now that Leah and her England pals have booked their tickets to Israel, she is fully focused on adding to her reputation as a rising star with a club she joined at the age of nine in 2006.
Leah made her WSL debut just a year ago, but by the end of the season she was named WSL Cup Player of the Year and England Women’s Youth Player of the Year. Not a bad debut season!
Having signed her first professional contract with the Gunners in March of this year, it is onwards and upwards for a talented youngster who has represented her country from youth to Under 19 level, captaining the Under 17 side along the way.
Cup honours have already come her way and Arsenal legend Faye White can only see further success for a player she says was ‘earmarked for success from a very early age’.
Faye adds: “She showed so much confidence and composure in her first season at the top level, never more so than when she took THAT penalty having had a whole day to think about. It took a lot of nerve.”