England star aims to seize second chance with Arsenal Ladies

Fara Williams in action for England against Norway during the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015

Fara Williams in action for England against Norway during the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015 - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Her move to Arsenal took 15 years longer than it might have done – but now Fara Williams intends to make up for lost time.

The experienced midfielder departed Liverpool Ladies, where she won successive Women’s Super League titles, to join the Gunners during the close season.

The switch rectifies what Williams describes as “a missed opportunity” when she was a teenager and turned down the chance to join Arsenal in favour of accompanying her close friend Eartha Pond to Charlton instead.

Now the 32-year-old – who recently became the first player to win 150 caps for England – is seeking to propel the Gunners back to the top of the pile when the new season gets under way this week.

“When I left Chelsea at the age of 17 and had to play for a Premier League team at the time, I was going to go to Arsenal,” said Williams.

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“But I followed my mate and we ended up going to Charlton together. I feel I kind of missed an opportunity to come here when I was younger because Arsenal were the most successful team.

“I always wanted to play against the best players to make me better, and playing against Arsenal helped me. But maybe everything happens for a reason and now it’s my time.

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“Liverpool weren’t in a good place – they’d released 10 players, I didn’t know if they had the finances to bring in 10 good replacements and I didn’t want to go into the season with that doubt.

“It looks like they’ve got a strong squad now and I’m happy for them, but at the time I wasn’t in a position to sign and, once I knew Arsenal were interested, it was the only option for me.

“This was a gut feeling. I wanted to stay competitive and I knew Arsenal were a competitive team with good players.”

Although Williams won a Premier League Cup with Charlton and added another, as well as an FA Cup triumph during her eight-year spell at Everton, that tally of domestic silverware remained modest until her move to Merseyside rivals Liverpool in 2012.

The Reds claimed the title in each of her first two seasons – and that taste of success is one Williams wants to experience again as the Gunners, who finished third in 2015, go in search of their first title for four years.

“This league’s going to be the most competitive to date and all the teams have strengthened, including the teams that have just come up,” she added.

“Arsenal were always known for winning trophies and they still do in terms of the FA Cup and Continental Cup, but the one this club wants most is to win the league again. That’s what we’ll be competing for.”

Williams – who was awarded an MBE earlier this year for her work with the Homeless FA charity – joins a core of very experienced players at Arsenal, including forwards Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey, defenders Casey Stoney and Alex Scott and goalkeeper Emma Byrne.

And she feels the senior pros have an important role to play in ensuring that the younger ones develop their full potential.

“I’ve always tried to help and guide any young player coming through and give them the right advice on and off the pitch, which I think is important,” she said.

“We’ve got people like Leah Williamson, Jordan Nobbs and Dominique Janssen and the good thing about the young players is they want to learn and get better, which makes the job a lot easier for the senior players.

“Younger players who think they know it all don’t have any respect for you. That certainly isn’t the case here – there’s a lot of respect and that can only help the squad to progress.”

Arsenal are away to Birmingham City in the Women’s FA Cup on Sunday (kick-off 2pm) before beginning their league campaign against newly-promoted Reading on Wednesday at Meadow Park, Borehamwood (7.45pm).

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