Williams: I'll always be fond of the Foxes

Sunday 05 March 2023 11:30

In this extract from the official match programme, Manchester United Women forward Rachel Williams looks forward to facing her hometown team Leicester City in another huge game for the Reds in the WSL title race.

We progressed to the FA Cup quarter-finals last week. How much would it mean to you to win the cup with United?
“I love the FA Cup. I’ve won it already with Birmingham  [in 2012] and I was at the FA Cup final for both the men and  women last year and I just remember thinking, ‘I’m going to be in this final next year’, so it’s a little target I’ve set myself that I want to win it again. And to do it with United, in the form we’re in, would be brilliant.”

We’ve got two big WSL games before our  Cup campaign resumes, starting with  Leicester – the club you started your career at, of course... 
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Leicester and I love playing against them. I’m from there, been brought up through the ranks, but you have to do a job in the shirt you’re in. Leicester had a difficult start to the season, but they’re starting to hit a bit of form now. I’ve said it many times: in the WSL you can’t take any team for granted – where they are, what they’ve produced the week before. We have to stay focused and make sure we hit the ground running to get the victory.”

Preview: United Women v Leicester City


Here's everything you need to know for Sunday's WSL home game at Leigh Sports Village, including how to get tickets.

What kind of memories do you have from your time at Leicester City?
“I came through their centre of excellence, but they didn’t have a women’s team at the time. When I left the centre of excellence we begged [their coach] Rehanne Skinner and our other manager to form a women’s team, and they formed Leicester Women. So it’s a team I’ll always hold in my heart. I’ve got memories from when we started lower [beginning in the Leicestershire County League], because the league said it wouldn’t be fair to put us straight into the top divisions, and I think we’d got to the old combination league when I left [for Doncaster Belles, in 2008].”

You’ve become quite the super sub for Marc Skinner in the league, namely for that winning goal at Reading in January. What were you thinking as the ball hit the net?
“I was sat on the bench watching the game and I thought, ‘this Reading keeper [Jacqueline Burns] is decent today’. I remember having a chat with kit manager Jon [Humble] and he was like, “Rach, if you get on, put it up high”. We weren’t sure if she would move quite as quick if the shot was hit up in the air. It got to about 82 minutes and I thought I wasn’t going to get on, but then all of a sudden it  was like, “Rach, get ready.” The atmosphere was already tense, you could see everyone was getting a bit stressed as it was getting to 90 minutes. I got on to the pitch [on 84  minutes] and I gave out the info, and as the ball fell back to me [on 87 minutes], I remember one [Reading player] fell over, then something else happened, and then I could see Martha [Thomas] on the far side, and I didn’t think I could get it to her, and that little voice was like ‘put it up if you’re shooting!’

“So all I was thinking was about getting a little bit of backlift on it, and see what happens, even if it made the keeper work and she spilled it. I kind of shot and spun, and saw it go in as the keeper just stood in the centre of the  goal. I just couldn’t believe it worked. That’s how important it is when you’re sitting on the bench – you’re just as  important as that starting XI, because if you’ve got to come  on and help the team see a game out or win it, you have to  be sitting on the bench knowing you’ve got a plan going  on. You can prepare all week for the game, but wherever  you play a part, you have to be ready. I just remember me and Jon, we were cleaning up in the changing rooms afterwards and we just fell about laughing  – we couldn’t believe how it worked!”

You won the WSL Goal of the Month award for that, which we assume made it even more special for you?
“Yeah. I don’t know what it is, I’ve just always loved those little blue WSL trophies! [laughs]. Every year, I’m like “I want one!” and I remember a couple of times last year I’d missed out to [then Tottenham team-mate] Ashleigh Neville, and rightly so she’s a great player, but when I heard I was up for Goal of the Month I was thinking, ‘could this be when I’m going to get a little blue trophy?!’ I’ve scored a lot of goals over the years but I think the significance of that goal and what it meant to us, the late drama of it all... it was kind of written that I was to get one like that. It’s sitting right on the centre of the windowsill in the living room!”

With such a vital league run coming up, including a particularly big one against another of your old sides in Chelsea, what are your hopes for the weeks ahead, both personally and as a team?

“Every year, my own standards are to try and win the  league. No matter what. I always start by wanting to compete for the league – picking up anything individual on the way is a bonus – and I want to win the FA Cup. For me, at the minute, I’m on track personally for both of those. By coming to United and seeing what they did last year, I’ve been right to hold those standards of myself as well. We’ve got ourselves in a good position competing for the league, and we’re still in the FA Cup, so we’re not doing too bad!”

The full interview appeared in the official match programme for United Women v Leicester City at Leigh Sports Village.

Tickets for United Women's eagerly awaited game at Old Trafford, against West Ham on Saturday 25 March, are available now from manutd.com/tickets.


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