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Fara's new lease of life

The England and Reading midfielder on her reinvented midfield role

In 2018, Fara Williams may feel like a throwback version of herself – but one thing has remained a constant.

The veteran England star, who has had spells with Chelsea, Charlton, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal, is in the midst of her second season with Reading, revelling in her reinvention as a player given full licence to join the Royals’ attack after years as a midfielder that never ventured far from the centre of the pitch.

However, Williams, who hit 10 goals in all competitions last term and has four to her name so far in 2018-19, continues to bely her newfound offensive freedom with the signature number four shirt – a tribute to one of her childhood heroes.

“People have always asked me why I wear the number four,” said 34-year-old Williams.

“When I was young, I used to go to all the Chelsea games and we’d just signed Ruud Gullit, and I loved him – he was unbelievable to go and watch.“When I got into the Chelsea first-team, the number four was the only shirt that was available, so I took it was like: ‘oh, I’m Ruud Gullit’.

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“When you’re 14, you want to wear the number of your favourite player. That’s where it started and I’ve tried to keep it.

“Occasionally, I’ve had eight thrown on me but that’s more with country as opposed to club.”

Williams has racked up a whopping 168 England caps, as well as five for Great Britain, and is part of Phil Neville’s Lionesses squad for friendlies against Brazil and Australia on Saturday and Tuesday respectively.

She’ll be out to add to her mighty haul of 40 international goals and, when she returns to Berkshire, continuing to aid Reading’s FA Women’s Super League charge.

“I think I adopted this ‘four’ role myself because early on, in the women’s game, I was probably one of the players that understood the game and football a little bit more than others, so playing in that role, you’ve got good understanding and good control of game-management,” said Williams.

“When I was a kid, I played with a little bit more freedom and flare, and I think as I became a more disciplined midfielder, I kind of took that out of my game and didn’t know how to combine the two.

“I ended up staying as a ‘four’ for a long time and probably went a little bit stale, and I wasn’t really learning much more about how I could develop that role myself, so going to Reading; they’ve seen a little bit more in me.

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“I’m showing people that I’m not just what looked like a lazy player that just wanted to get on the ball and play.

“I’m somebody that can work hard for my team and make those unselfish runs that I probably haven’t done in a long time because of the role I was playing.

“I’m getting on a bit but I feel younger than I ever have and I’m probably covering more distance than I ever have in the last few years.

“It’s refreshing and having that scoring feeling again is great. It’s nice to score but it’s about how I can do my best to help anyone in the team score.”

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