Williamson back in England squad after injury

Leah Williamson for England
Leah Williamson last played for England in a 2-0 defeat by Australia in April 2023

Leah Williamson has returned to the England squad for the first time since April for friendlies against Austria and Italy.

A training camp precedes the games in Spain on 23 and 27 February.

Millie Bright, who led the Lionesses at the 2023 World Cup in Williamson’s absence, misses out with a knee injury.

England manager Sarina Wiegman said of Williamson’s return: “It’s really nice, especially for her. She’s back, she’s gaining minutes at Arsenal and doing well.

“Even though she has been out for months, her decision making is really good.”

She also added that she was happy with the way the players “stepped up” without Williamson but would not confirm whether she would captain the side.

Defender Bright, 30, has not featured for Chelsea in 2024 after the injury kept her out of the Lionesses’ Uefa Nations League matches in November.

Williamson has yet to play a full 90 minutes since her recovery as she makes a gradual return to playing, featuring as a substitute on her Arsenal comeback in a 6-0 League Cup win at Reading on 25 January, then starting on 4 February and playing the first half as they lost 2-1 at West Ham in the Women’s Super League.

She led the Lionesses to the Euro 2022 title but missed last summer’s World Cup, where England lost to Spain in the final, and has not featured for Wiegman’s side since a 2-0 defeat by Australia on 11 April.

She suffered the ACL injury eight days later in Arsenal’s Women’s Super League match against Manchester United.

Also included in the squad is uncapped Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Grace Clinton, 20, while Manchester City’s Jess Park is recalled.

City goalkeeper Khiara Keating, also yet to be capped by England, joins Manchester United’s Mary Earps and Hannah Hampton of Chelsea in the 23-strong squad.

But there is no place for Manchester United’s in-form forward Nikita Parris, who has scored seven goals in her past six games.

Wiegman’s England are building towards the 2025 European Championship, with the qualifying rounds starting in April and the draw taking place on 5 March.

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England squad

Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Hannah Hampton, Khiara Keating

Defenders: Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, Niamh Charles, Alex Greenwood, Maya le Tissier, Esme Morgan, Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy

Midfielders: Grace Clinton, Fran Kirby, Jess Park, Georgia Stanway, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh

Forwards: Rachel Daly, Lauren Hemp, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly, Beth Mead, Alessia Russo

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Wiegman ‘worried’ about players’ schedule

Leah Williamson (left) and Sarina Wiegman (right) celebrate England winning Euro 2022
Leah Williamson and coach Sarina Wiegman led England to Euro 2022 glory

Wiegman said she had concerns around the players’ congested schedule, even with her players missing out on this summer’s Olympics tournament in France, with England unsuccessful in their attempt to qualify on behalf of Great Britain.

“So far it looks similar to last year so I am worried about that,” she said.

“They want to compete. We want the players to be fit and fresh, which means you always need a proper rest.

“You need to train in between June and July too. We have had conversations with clubs. These have been good conversations but we still don’t have solutions for that period.”

After the European qualifiers, England have an international window in June before the Champions League resumes in September.

In January, Williamson also raised concerns around the schedule following Australia and Chelsea star Sam Kerr’s ACL injury, telling the Telegraphexternal-link that the current fixture schedule is “unsustainable”.

“This really needs to be solved. It’s complex at the moment but players at the highest level, the demands are so high and they need a proper rest in between seasons. Things really need to be changed,” Wiegman said.

Wiegman also said that Chelsea winger Lauren James “looks OK” after an injury scare during Sunday’s FA Cup win over Crystal Palace and added that Parris’ omission was a “hard decision”.

“The competition up front is really high. In autumn she didn’t play that much but since the new year she’s played in the nine position and has done really well, and of course we have noticed that,” she added.

“I had a little chat with her and I hope she has consistency because we are talking about her again. I made some other choices now for this camp with the players we have. It was a hard decision.”

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