Fara Williams has played for England more than any other player in history, male or female, racking up a record 172 senior caps for the Lionesses between 2001 and 2019.
During those 18 years in an England shirt, Williams saw incredible changes to the women’s game and lined up alongside countless players, both from past eras to current stars still lighting it up.
Sitting down with Girls on the Ball for an exclusive 90min chat (watch the full video above), Williams picked her all-time England XI made up of former teammates, opting for a 3-4-3 midfield diamond…
GK: Pauline Cope
“This is difficult because Rachel Brown was an unbelievable goalkeeper I played with for many years at Everton, but she was behind a phenomenal goalkeeper in Pauline Cope. I can’t not say that Pauline Cope was England’s best number one goalkeeper that I’ve seen.
“She had everything and was horrible to play against. Her presence in goal…there is no goalkeeper made like her now. The things she used to do, like twist your arm or stamp on your toes if you’re an opponent standing anywhere near her – she everything up her sleeve. She was one of those that cocky she’d do a couple of keepy-ups before catching it. Just the confidence about her.”
CB: Lucy Bronze
“It’s an unnatural position, but I can’t not have Lucy Bronze in my team. It would restrict some of her strengths in terms of bombing [forward], but we could get that balance right.”
CB: Anita Asante
“As a teammate, I never thought she was underrated, but she didn’t get the [England] caps that appreciated how good she was. When I say, ‘Get your cigar out, give me the ball and I’m going to make the game look easier that it is’, that was her.
“If she played now in the modern-day game, she would probably be the best centre-back in the world. She had those characteristics, like stepping into midfield with the ball and find passes. Back then, when it was a more direct game, her playing centre half didn’t suit the style of play because you had to be one of those hard tackling, boot it long type players.”
CB: Rachel Unitt
“She had a wand of a left foot. She doesn’t need to think about getting forward, she can just play and had qualities on the ball like Alex Greenwood.”
DM: Fara Williams
“Of course, I have to be at the base of the diamond.
“I’m not going to tell you all the good attributes I have [laughs].”
CM: Katie Chapman; CM: Jill Scott
“When you have a diamond, you need people that can do everything. They’ve got to be able to get out and press, get back into shape, be able to defend and get forward.
“Those two had engines like no one I have ever played with. They would be perfect in a diamond shape to make me look good. They’ll tell you they probably did all my running anyway.”
AM: Kelly Smith
“Kelly Smith as a 10, for obvious reason. She’s just going to find our front three.”
RF: Fran Kirby
“Fran Kirby has to be in my team.”
ST: Karen Walker
“Karen Walker as number nine. I know Ellen White has got an unbelievable record in terms of goals, but when I first got into the England squad I was like, ‘Who is this player?’ Kaz Walker could score goals for fun…an unbelievable finisher. The closest to her in scoring those types of goals is Ellen White and she went on to break the [all-time scoring] record. But Kaz Walker was something else.”
LF: Rachel Yankey