Fara Williams interview: When a few become one for Reds’ England midfielder
England’s all-time leading international appearance-maker, Liverpool Ladies’ Fara Williams has come a long way since she was just starting out in the game, still keeping a close ensemble of past teammates to throw it back in style with.
Amongst all the prestigious names to have worn the Three Lions over years and decades gone by, whether for the men’s or women’s side, some just stand out that bit more than most. There are players who encapsulated English spirit, dazzled with mesmerising play, and those who proudly represented the country on the European and world stage.
Currently sitting at the very top of the list for England caps is midfielder Fara Williams. The former Chelsea youngster emerged as an intriguing up-and-coming talent on the international scene back in 2001 and six tournaments and a staggering 139 caps later she has ensured that her name will always be mentioned whenever the great and good of the women’s game in this country are brought up.
As with any athlete or individual who reached the peaks of their profession, there is much more than just on-field statistics to Fara’s story. The hardships she faced, largely in secret for so long, have received media attention in recent times and it has undoubtedly helped people to understand a little more of the person behind the combative midfielder with a liking for the spectacular on the pitch.
For any who may be reading this site for the first time, the idea is to get a fresh insight into the player interviewed by talking about not only their teammates and career, but how music plays a part in their life and illustrates who they are. Music is of course very personal in many respects and it has more of an active role in some people’s lives than others.
The England team is full of personalities and there are some, like defender Alex Scott and forward Lianne Sanderson for example, who have a deep connection with all kinds of songs and genres. As Fara freely admits, she takes more of a back seat when the playlists are in full swing before a game but music does still manage to have a certain level of impact on her.
In one of the regular questions on here, the Liverpool vice-captain was asked which of her career teammates she would choose to record a song cover with and her response took it all the way back to her days on the blue side with a group she has been close with ever since.
“It would be Amy Kane, Kelly Vaughan, Natalie Preston, Karen Boyle and myself as the Spice Girls,” she said. “We would do any of their songs.”
Signing for Everton in 2004, Fara would win the FA Women’s Premier League Cup in 2008 and the FA Women’s Cup two years later, beating Arsenal on both occasions. Along with England colleague Natasha Dowie she moved to Liverpool towards the end of 2012, going on to lift two FA Women’s Super League titles since, but those years with the Blues saw her progress considerably as a player.
One of those she picked out for the Spice Girls cover was former Everton defender Kelly Vaughan, who knows Fara better than most. She discusses how she has seen her friend grow as a person since they first knew each other, pays tribute to her outstanding playing achievements, and also reveals some of the music edges to her story.
“Fara came to Liverpool and her taste in music was pretty awful to be honest! She’d range from a bit of garage to love songs – old, old love songs.
“I think she warmed to garage because she spoke that fast herself she’d actually sound like she knew the words to us! However, as she spent most of her time in Liverpool we managed, with difficulty, to sort this out.
“Although she isn’t massive on music we have been to many a gig together, including Amsterdam to see the Swedish House Mafia and more recently a cool gig in Shoreditch to see Klingande. The most special song to our group of friends would be ‘Fade’, a dance classic that no matter what always gets us all up dancing.
“In her early days, Fara was pretty mad and loud. I remember her turning up to Bellefield, Everton’s old training ground, in odd trainers; both Nike but different colours, just to be different.
“Safe to say though that’s definitely the Fara of old. She is undoubtedly one of, if not the most technically gifted female footballer in England in my opinion, alongside Kelly Smith.
“She’s not too keen on the limelight or attention and not one for showing off. She is a true professional and contrary to what many a player or manager have thought about us as friends being a bad influence on her I can say now there’s been many an event Fara has missed out on with the girls to have an early night for a game the next day!
“As the game has progressed, so has Fara. She’s now reaching personal bests in fitness tests and it just shows she still has a lot in her locker.”
Linking up with Chelsea as a 12-year-old, Fara had an explosive impact during the 2000/01 campaign before moving to Charlton Athletic and winning the club’s Player of the Year award as well as the FA Women’s Young Player of the Year in her first season. Along with current England teammates such as Alex Scott, Anita Asante and Laura Bassett, she went to the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship, at 18 years of age, and she went back to her teenage years here as she thought back to the first single she ever had.
“The first one was ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC.”
Now in her third WSL season at Liverpool, Fara has a background of success with the Reds after consecutive title wins, including last year’s thrilling finale which saw Matt Beard’s team clinch the league despite being 3rd as the last day began. Be it for her drive and determination from the middle of the park, ability to find a goal, or her all-round experience and influence, she has been one of the big reasons why Liverpool’s name has been on the trophy in 2013 and 2014.
Celebrating those championships with Fara was a defender who took the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year accolade for last season. The England international has since joined Manchester City but she was responsible for more than just leadership and assurance at the back while with the Reds, as Fara explains.
“Lucy Bronze was our Liverpool DJ and was a success with the team for two years.”
As a 17-year-old, Fara first appeared for the Lionesses against Portugal, later netting her first goal against the same opposition with a free-kick at Portsmouth’s Fratton Park in February 2002. That was her very first start for her country and slightly surreal for her considering she had been unaware there was an England women’s team until she saw them play Scotland on TV when she was younger.
She had been inspired by seeing fellow midfielder Vicky Exley appear in that game and would be in the squad with the former Doncaster Rovers Belles player at both Euro 2005 and World Cup 2007. Fara scored a penalty in each of those tournaments, converting in the 2005 loss to Denmark and the 2007 thrashing of Argentina, doing the same in the Euro 2009 opening defeat to Italy.
Scoring in the 2009 quarter-final win over hosts Finland as she captained the side in Faye White’s absence, she played the entirety of the final loss to Germany. Fara also got the Lionesses off the mark in the 2011 World Cup, giving them the lead against Mexico, before going on to represent Team GB in the Olympics a year later.
The two-time FA International Player of the Year appeared in yet another major tournament as she featured at Euro 2013 and she is highly likely to be in Mark Sampson’s squad for the World Cup in June. Despite such prominent roles in numerous competitions she won’t be stepping up to challenge the Lionesses’ resident DJ this summer.
“I just listen to whatever Alex Scott puts on pre-England game and what Katie Zelem at Liverpool puts on as I don’t play my own music. I don’t really get involved in it at club or international level.”
Although forwards Jodie Taylor and Lianne Sanderson have flown the English flag in the National Women’s Soccer League over in the U.S. in the last couple of years, there were considerably more who ventured across the Atlantic to be part of Women’s Professional Soccer between 2009 and 2011. The presence of the FA WSL since then has of course meant that English players have felt less need to leave these shores for high-level league play, opting instead to help grow their own domestic competition and product.
Some may not recall or even be aware of it, but Fara was selected by the Philadelphia Independence in the WPS International Draft back in September 2009. She decided to stay with Everton but that switch would have seen her work with English manager Paul Riley and her aforementioned international teammate Lianne Sanderson.
The latter of those, who featured in her own in-depth interview on here last summer, returned to the England fold when Mark Sampson took over in late-2013. As any who’ve played with her will confirm, besides being an experienced and accomplished player the Arsenal forward is a big character and undoubtedly important to the team dynamic of her respective sides.
Fara describes how she and a certain Man City midfielder help to bring the camp to life with their unique entertainment.
“Lianne Sanderson and Jill Scott always love to sing and they don’t need a reason to make a short video.”
With all her cup finals, big domestic and European matches, as well as tournaments around the world with England, Fara has been at the heart of many sizeable occasions, but has she ever taken on the pressure of singing for her teammates?
“No I haven’t, and I wouldn’t because I’m tone-deaf and I’m terrible for forgetting the words to songs and making up my own!”
One of the standout personal moments in Fara’s Liverpool career to date came in the ultimately pivotal 2-1 win at Birmingham last September. After Hannah Keryakoplis’ long-ranger had seemingly given Blues a point, Fara hit the winner from the centre-circle after the resulting kick-off, catching Becky Spencer off her line in style.
As they go for a third WSL title in succession, competition appears fiercer than ever with Man City adding more and more notable talent to their side, as well as last season’s strongest challengers Chelsea and Birmingham, and an Arsenal side with a fresh look, to name but a few. Reds boss Matt Beard has brought in American-born England Under-23 defender Satara Murray, Norwegian full-back Ingrid Ryland and her compatriot and forward Line Smorsgard, in addition to African Women’s Player of the Year and Nigeria striker Asisat Oshoala.
From their three opening fixtures, the Reds have sandwiched a 2-1 home win over Birmingham (in which Fara scored) between a defeat to newly-promoted Sunderland and the loss at Chelsea last Sunday (April 19th). Captain Gemma Bonner, defender Corina Schröder and striker Natasha Dowie have each featured on here previously and provided a glimpse into various parts of their personality.
The team’s connection with the supporters is a cornerstone of Liverpool Ladies and Fara makes reference to that as she urges anyone who is undecided to come out and support them this season and beyond.
“We’re two-time league champions and we have international footballers on show, pre-game entertainment for the fans, who have a song for every player – no other fans have this – and we are a very welcoming club.”
In September 2006, England ensured they would be going to their first World Cup since 1995, thanks to an incredibly hard-fought and spirited 1-1 draw away to France. That game is Fara’s most memorable in her illustrious international career so far as she helped force Hoda Lattaf’s own goal and battled with her teammates to hold onto the priceless point after Ludivine Diguelman’s late leveller.
Fara’s targets for Liverpool and England are centred on team success, but now out in front for international caps, she is rightly recognised as one of the game’s elite. As many are by now aware, her journey has had to encompass much more than football ups and downs, but she had some simple pieces of advice when asked what she would share with the younger version of herself if she could go back now.
“Learn more about respect, understanding differences in people, friendships, and being able to work as part of a team.”
In the last few years, the interviews have been wrapped up on here by getting the player to take it to the fantasy 5-a-side arena. Each interviewee is asked to put themselves into this scenario and to look back over all those they have played alongside and to pick four current or former teammates to be in this side.
It is tough for the players to narrow it down and most could choose multiple teams of those they have enjoyed working with. Known for being someone who often runs the show in small-sided training games like this, who would you see lining up in Fara’s team here?
“Goalkeeper: Rachel Brown. Defender: Lucy Bronze.
“Midfield: Michelle Hinnigan and me. Forward: Kelly Smith.”
Watch Fara in action on Sunday as the reigning Women’s Super League champions take on Manchester City Women at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes. Tickets are just £5 adults and £2.50 children/concessions. Kick-off is 6pm.
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