Defender Leah Williamson equals Arsenal legend Kelly Smith's appearance record
- Credit: PA
Leah Williamson made her 156th Arsenal appearance at Chelsea on Wednesday night, in doing so she equalled Arsenal legend Kelly Smith's all time record as a Gunners player.
Williamson who grew up in Milton Keynes is a life long Arsenal supporter her hero growing up in the womens game was Smith, England's all time top goalscorer.
The 23-year-old defender has had an incredible career to date and even wore the captain's armband as Joe Montemurro's side lost in Manchester to Manchester City on Sunday.
Williamson made her Arsenal debut when she came on for Rachel Yankey in Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat to Birmingham City in the Champions League quarter-final in 2014 and hasn't looked back since.
Growing up she went to the men's matches at the Emirates Stadium and was even fortunate enough to visit Highbury, while at the Women's matches she helped her mother Amanda on the gate.
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Just a little girl she watched Smith score an incredible amount of goals for her beloved Arsenal before graduating through the academy with her incredible work rate and ending up playing with her hero.
Williamson and Smith were in the same FA Cup winning team in 2016 as the Gunners won 1-0 with a goal from Danielle Carter against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium.
On Smith, Williamson said: "Kelly is truly the definition of my hero. Growing up, I aspired to be like her and that’s never changed. She has offered me words of wisdom at times when I really needed them.
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"I’m really grateful to have had the chance to play with her and watch on in awe. Her on-the-pitch ability made her so desirable to many. She’s unlike anything else to come out of this country.
"In the dressing room, she had the power to silence the room.
"When she starts speaking, everyone listens. She comes up with what we need at the right time.
"Being a young player coming through, she knew what to say to make it all better."
Although Smith was suspended for the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in 2007 Leah Williamson was a mascot on the day of the second leg against Umeå IK as the Gunners picked up the trophy.
Although she marked her latest milestone with a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea she could still have been proud of her performance as she was solid and her 1 v 1 defending against Chelsea striker Sam Kerr was sublime.
Williamson is a key player also in terms of creating chances for Arsenal with her passing range being one of the best in the Women's Super League and this season has already beaten her assist record from 2019/20.
In 2018/19 she finished the season as Arsenal’s most active player on the ball with 1,501 touches, as well as completing the most successful passes in the opposition’s half (591) and this is a pattern that has progressed even further over the past two campaigns as she’s one of the most accomplished players on the ball.
Last season she played 1,286 minutes and was the most used player in the league which shows her importance to the team, this season has been no different as she has started every game for the Gunners
What is also so good about the 23-year-old is that she is versatile as she can also play in midfield if there is an injury in that area of the squad.
She can also play at the right of a back three a perfect example of this was last season against Brighton & Hove Albion where she provided two assists for Jill Roord and Danielle van de Donk.
Williamson is also the perfect role model off the pitch as she had always spent time with fans before the Coronavirus pandemic struck and football had to be played behind closed doors.
She also went to Jakarta with the Arsenal Foundation and coached and advised young girls about football.
Williamson has already played in eight domestic cup finals despite being so young and was a valuable player in the 2018/19 Women's Super League title winning squad.
Smith is certainly held in high regard as an Arsenal legend and so will Williamson if she remains an Arsenal player but Joe Montemurro said last week he's confident that she will extend her contract at the club.