Captain of the Lionesses and Arsenal star, Leah Williamson, received the Freedom of the City award, which is the highest honour any council can bestow, from Milton Keynes Council for her contribution to the community.

Leah Williamson is the first person to receive the prestigious award since Milton Keynes achieved city status in 2022 as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours competition.

The award was approved unanimously by all councillors.

Williamson, born and raised in Newport Pagnell, played for a boys’ team, Bletchley’s Scots Youth, as a child as there were no girls’ teams available.

She recalled receiving abuse from the sidelines every week and having to wear a gum shield to protect her teeth as “everybody wanted to kick lumps out of me”, but it didn’t deter her.

Last year, Williamson led England to victory in the UEFA Women’s Championship, inspiring a new generation of women and girls to participate in sports. She was also recently named in the FIFA XI as Beth Mead finished 3rd in the FIFA Best Player award.

“The Lionesses are an inspiration to everyone and have shown that through teamwork, ability, and hard work, anything is possible,” said Pete Marland, the leader of the Milton Keynes City Council.

“I hope the win will have a lasting impact on women’s sports and change the attitude of many others to women’s sport in general.”

Williamson’s achievement has also led to a demand for more sports pitches in the area.

The local Conservative Party have requested the construction of more sports pitches, both grass and artificial, to meet the increasing demand from local soccer clubs.

“The success and inspiration that Leah Williamson has engendered across Milton Keynes and beyond has meant that the demand for pitches has increased enormously across Milton Keynes and beyond from all ages and genders,” said Cllr David Hopkins, the Conservative Group leader.

“MK City Council has a very real opportunity to commit to delivering on the legacy of the success of Leah Williamson.”