Fara Williams may have just retired as England Women’s most-capped player of all time, but she is not going anywhere anytime soon and has revealed her ultimate ambition of one day becoming boss of the Lionesses.
The 37-year-old, who played 172 times for her county, helping them to a third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup and runners-up at Euro 2009, admits she used to see herself as “superhuman” before a battle with a rare kidney condition – alongside other factors – saw her hang up her boots.
Those other factors, Williams says, included a cancerous mole on her shoulder and a tumour in her knee. They both needed to be surgically removed, which she has not revealed until now.
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One of the most respected figures in the women’s game in England, Williams enjoyed a trophy-laden club career, twice lifting the Women’s Super League with Liverpool and winning two FA Cups with Everton and Arsenal.
Williams is a natural-born fighter having overcome a period of homelessness earlier in her career and does not plan on being out of the game for very long.
“Coaching is what I want to do,” she said. “I need to be on the grass. The only way I can transition in terms of understanding what type of coach I want to be, is by having contact with players.
“I don’t want to jump into management. There’s levels to management. One day I would love to be England manager. But ‘one day’ is five, six or seven years down the line.
“I need to learn the game as a manager and understand what management takes. I think I’ll be a good coach in the short term, I really enjoy coaching, but in terms of the skills in management I’ve got a lot to learn.”
Williams has spoken openly about being diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome in the past and reveals the biggest challenge for her personally was the weight gain she made from the steroids she was taking as medication.
The former midfielder admits it had a huge impact on her self-consciousness and says she struggled to even look at herself in the mirror, feeling she was being judged for the way she looked.
“[Retirement] definitely hasn’t sunk in,” Williams added. “Apart from trying to keep myself busy with some kind of routine throughout the day, I’m bored already!
“It will hit me when the girls go back to pre-season and I’ve got nothing to do. They’ll be talking about how hard the running was, and even though I hated running the most, I will miss it. I will miss the banter and I will miss the girls and the interaction.
“Right now, I needed a rest. I’m quite old school. In the past when I’ve had injuries, I think I’m superhuman and can fight through them. Then I got this illness and yeah, I just couldn’t fight it.
“The medication, the steroids I was on… I put on what, eight or nine kilos in weight. All of a sudden overnight, I had gone from feeling okay in my own body to absolutely hate looking in the mirror.
“Clothes were too small for me. With the kit, I was getting bigger sizes. Knowing that you are being judged for the way you look, that will always be the hardest thing for me.
“Throughout my career weight was never a problem but I was always conscious of how I looked in terms of my weight. I had ups and downs. There was so much going on in my head that I was trying to control.”
Asked if the coronavirus pandemic affected her decision to retire, Williams said: “During the first lockdown I got an injury, so I had an operation the last week in February – then rehab over zoom – which was horrendous.
“I was trying to rehab from the hip, then I got ill, then at the end of the illness I had something else. I had a mole on my shoulder and you know what, if I didn’t have the kidney condition, I probably wouldn’t have got it checked.
“I got it checked, and it was cancerous. I had a big operation on my shoulder. I haven’t spoken about that. At Christmas, I had a couple weeks out and that’s when I came out with my post about the kidney.
“Then literally two weeks before retirement… I announced it on the Monday, on the Tuesday I went to training, thinking I was going to enjoy the last two weeks. But my knee kept giving way. I was like, ‘what is that?’
“And then they found a tumour behind the knee that needed removing. So that’s when I knew I was definitely a write-off for next season. My body is obviously shutting down. The illness was the main chunk but there was all of these things.”
After much consideration & despite offers to remain within the game, I have made the difficult decision to retire from professional football at the end of the season.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have had a career of more than 20 years within the women’s game ⚽️❤️ pic.twitter.com/Z9YWEcgdzi
Quizzed on how she was feeling now, she added: “I’m fine – well I say I’m fine – but if I’m honest I’m probably still not 100 per cent where I was before. Still getting over things and the medication is probably still working too.
“I was saying to my physio – I’m weaker. I used to carry all the shopping bags home and now I need my partner to carry some for me. I’m struggling. I’m trying to get on the boxing pads at home and build some strength back.”
WSL live on Sky Sports from 2021/22 season
Sky Sports has announced a three-year deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster of the Barclays Women’s Super League from September 2021.
As one of the most competitive leagues, with some of the most famous names and teams in the world, the WSL will be one of Sky Sports’ flagship offerings.
The deal will see Sky Sports show at least 35 games exclusively live per season and further strengthens the broadcaster’s commitment to women’s sport.
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