With a glistening resume, that includes back-to-back WSL titles, an FA Cup triumph, and not one, but two goals from the halfway line, Williams reveals her finest moment in football, life beyond playing, and the Arsenal star she’s always wanted as a teammate.
Voted the FA Players’ Player of the Year in 2009, FA International Player of the Year on two separate occasions, and currently boasting 172 England caps, Williams has an abundance of individual accolades to her name.
And yet, when asked to recall her proudest career achievement to date, the now veteran still points to her international debut in 2001, way back when she was just 17 years old.
“I think making my England debut will always be the standout. It was never something that as a kid growing up I ever thought about,” she tells GiveMeSport Women. “Visually, there was no [women’s] football on the TV growing up to even consider that being an ambition.”
Since then, Williams has enjoyed over 20 years in the professional game, spending time at Charlton, Arsenal, Liverpool and, most extensively, at Everton, where she turned out for the Toffees on over 100 occasions.
In 2017, the midfielder moved to fellow WSL club Reading –– a side battling to compete with the top clubs in the division. Reading sit sixth in the domestic table at present, but Williams believes the team is far better than their league position suggests.
“I just think we’ve been a little bit inconsistent. And I think clinically in front of goal, we’ve needed to be better. That performance against [Manchester] United I think we should have won. The frustration with us is that we let ourselves down sometimes in games that we should go on to win.
A prolific goal scorer during her spell at Everton and in the early days of her international career, Williams was given less attacking freedom at Liverpool and Arsenal, but feels her game has developed a lot in the final third recently, crediting coach Kelly Chambers for the return of her impressive form in front of goal.
Coming here, we have a coach that has done some phenomenal work with me…I feel like the younger Fara that used to score goals as a 16-year-old. I missed that for a big chunk of my career so I’ve really enjoyed it.
Despite feeling re-energised, re-focused and re-motivated since joining Reading, Williams doesn’t envisage adding to her international appearance tally, citing the wealth of outstanding players at England’s disposal.
“I’ve accepted my time in England is pretty much done. I wouldn’t expect that, with the great young talent that’s coming through, that I would need to even be considered as somebody that would be involved in the squad.”
Instead, thoughts have begun to turn towards a life beyond the pitch. Williams was a pundit for the 2019 FA Cup Final, although confessed that, while she loves talking about football, she sometimes struggles in front of the camera.
Coaching is another route open to her — “it’s always something I’ve wanted to do,” she says. “Ever since I’ve played, I’ve enjoyed doing coaching and developing young players.”
Emphasising a need to learn the trade before going into management, an assistant managerial role would be her preferred choice. Regardless of this predilection, though, Williams says she’d like to continue her development and prioritise a career in senior football over coaching youth players.
If management does beckon, then Williams will no doubt be able to impart plenty of wisdom — not least the technique for scoring outrageous goals from distance.
Renowned for her array of extraordinary finishes — which include two strikes from the halfway line against Birmingham and Arsenal respectively — the cream of the crop for Williams will always be her volley against Liverpool back in 2017.
“Yeah, that was one that I enjoyed and to see it go in over Siobhan [Chamberlain], to see it go over her head and into the top corner, was probably my favourite.”
Williams and Chamberlain were teammates while the pair were together at Liverpool. Having played with a plethora of world-class players throughout her career, it took Williams little time to give us the one name she wishes was also on that list.
“Easy answer. [Vivienne] Miedema. What a joy to watch,” she says emphatically. “I mean, she’s so underrated, I don’t think she gets the recognition she deserves.
“I think she’s a phenomenal striker and I don’t know how she’s never been put up there with the top five players in the world. For me, she’s one of the best, and if I’d stayed at Arsenal longer, we might have had the opportunity to play together.”
Sticking on the subject of teammates, 20 years of international matches and domestic away days have seen Williams have her fair share of roommates. As a self-confessed “clean freak”, she jokes that many of the England team were never the tidiest, particularly Rachel Brown and Jill Scott –– who recently celebrated a landmark England appearance herself.
Irrespective of her bedroom cleanliness, Williams considers Scott to be her best roommate. “Jill got better the longer we roomed,” she laughs.
“I think she realised that we weren’t having a morning clean-up to make our beds and it was up to us to make our own.”
Jill also has the moves on the dancefloor, according to Williams, who named Lianne Sanderson, Eni Aluko and Alex Scott –– a former Strictly Come Dancing quarter-finalist — as the others with the most rhythm. “They were probably the four, once the music was on, that were up and dancing,” she recalls.
Asked who would play her in a film of her life, Williams says it would have to be herself. “I don’t really watch much TV”, she says. “I’m a football geek, I just watch football constantly, so maybe I’d say me.”
Indeed, having had such a distinguished career –– filled with personal achievements, team successes and history-making moments; coupled with injury troubles, illness, and even homelessness for a period –– a film about Williams’ life would surely make Oscar-worthy viewing.