Paige Williams - "I love being a role model"

I love being a role model and I make sure I don’t go into the changing room until every last kid has had a chat with us or something signed.

Paige Williams

Paige Williams has certainly clocked up some air miles en route to Blues Women, starting in her native Liverpool via a two-season detour to Italy where she learnt to speak “Scouse Italian” and returned to England to star in Birmingham.

She started from humble beginnings with a kickabout at the park which in turn sparked her enthusiasm for football.

She said: “My dad took me the park and you could pay a pound to shoot at the goalkeeper so I did and scored. 

“Then my cousin Roy would always take me to the park and make me use my left foot. 

“From there I joined a boys team called the Mags Rangers and went on from there.”

Yet it was when she started at grassroots level, that she started to believe that she could become a professional footballer.

“It was when I joined my grassroots team Liverpool Feds that I knew it’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “That club made me fall in love with football.”

Williams went on to progress through the ranks at Everton Ladies, having joined their Centre of Excellence. At the club, she reached the FA Cup final in 2014.

But an anterior cruciate ligament injury curtailed her playing time for the Toffees. 

She was back in action in the 2015 season, however following the conclusion of her contract that campaign, it was announced that she would leave Everton to sign for Italian side Brescia.

Williams explained that although the move seemed daunting at the time, after packing up her life and leaving for Italy, it was the best decision of her career to date.

She said: “I was in a rut at Everton. I was working in a burger bar and I needed to get out my comfort zone. 

“I had always wanted to go abroad but I never expected it would be Italy. It was the best thing I’ve ever done though.”

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing and going to a club where not even the manager spoke English brought its challenges.

“I learnt how to speak Scouse Italian,” Williams joked.

“In the first year that I was there, I was the only foreign player so it was tough at times.

“I spent a lot of time on my own in the first few months. But that was good though because I learnt to enjoy my own company.”

After a season at Brescia, where she won the Serie A and the Coppa Italia, Williams decided to make the move to Verona despite options to return to England.

During her time in Italy she learnt several things about herself which has helped her in terms of her personal life and on the football pitch.

She said: “The biggest thing I took away from the experience of being out in Italy was learning that how you grow is by leaving your comfort zone, which I felt I have done on and off the pitch.”

Williams made an impact on the international stage, having represented England from Under-15s to Under-23s and was also called up for the Under-20s World Cup in Canada.

Following her two-year spell in Italy and having established herself with England, she was manager Skinner's third signing ahead of the FA WSL Spring Series, after Ellen White and Sarah Mayling joined the Club.

She has been here ever since, playing in the 2016 Women’s FA Cup final against Manchester City and has established herself in the first team, despite an injury at the end of last season.

But Williams said that she has loved it since signing and has not looked back.

She said: “From the minute I got here it’s felt like home.”

Williams is not only a player at the Club though and has an active role with the development of the youth. She is a coach in the RTC and has a heart-warming bond with the girls, and claims that they have taught her more about herself than she teaches them.

The left-back said: “I genuinely love everyone at the Club - and most importantly my little Under-10s. I feel like I’ve got 16 kids which is amazing. They’ve taught me just as much as I’ve tried to teach them.

“They’ve taught me to have patience.

“They keep me on my toes because they’re at all of our home games watching. 

“In one of our training sessions, one of them passed the ball in the air and I said: ‘play it along the floor if there is no defender in the way’ and her reply was: ‘well I saw you do it on Sunday in the game.’ They’re always watching!”

With women’s football on the rise, with the FA WSL becoming fully professional at the start of this season, many more girls now believe that they can make football their job and Paige and the rest of the team are key to spurring them on.

She said: “I love being a role model and I make sure that I don’t go into the changing room until every last kid has had a chat with us or had something signed. 

“That’s what is different between the men’s and women’s game.”

Williams offered her advice to the young girls that turn out week in, week out wanting to make it as a footballer, saying: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can. 

“It takes sacrifices but the rewards make it all worthwhile.”

For those out there aspiring to be like Paige, she gave an insight into what a usual day at training is like.

“So a typical Wednesday would be a 9:15 meet at Wast Hills,” she said.

“We would get our GPS vest on and walk to the pitch, where training will last about 2 hours.

“After that some girls go for a Starbucks, while some go home before our second session at Fitness First where we have our gym sessions. 

“This will be a lower body session for about an hour. After that I’d go home, shower, make some food and get ready to do it all again the next day.”

And the key thing to keeping the long training days fun, is relationships with the other players which Williams spoke highly of.

She said: “Aoife [Mannion] is my all-time number one. But I’d say me, Aoife, Lucy, Hayley and Marisa are the ones who will go for coffee. 

“Harriet [Scott] is trying to get involved but we will see if she has enough banter. I’m not convinced.

“With this team I feel like everyone could go for a coffee with everyone. There isn’t really clicks.”

Williams has encouraged more fans to get down and support the team with the game against Liverpool at St. Andrew’s right around the corner. 

She said: “I think more people have to get on board. Most of the people that judge women’s football have never seen a game. 

“So come down and watch and you might be pleasantly surprised.”