How ‘little fighter’ Fara Williams went from homeless to England’s most capped international as Reading midfielder announces retirement aged 37

“I didn’t want it to be a big thing,” Fara Williams told talkSPORT on Monday after announcing her retirement from professional football.

Such is the Reading midfielder’s humble and down-to-earth nature, she didn’t want to make a massive deal about calling time on her illustrious 20-year career.

England legend Williams was deservedly rewarded with an MBE back in 2016
Getty – Pool
Williams has served her country with distinction, racking up 172 appearances since making her senior debut in 2002
Getty Images

But England’s record appearance holder deserves recognition – and plenty of it – for what she has achieved in the game.

Kelly Smith, who played with Williams for England and Arsenal, paid a fitting tribute to her former colleague on Sky Sports by saying her decision to retire is a ‘sad day for women’s football’.

And that it was. Williams is one of the most decorated players to wear the Three Lions shirt having made 172 appearances, featuring at three World Cups in the process.

She also helped the Lionesses’ to a third place finish at the 2015 World Cup and a runners-up gong at Euro 2009, while also playing for Great Britain during the London 2012 Olympics.

Getty Images

The midfielder represented Great Britain during the London 2012 Olympics[/caption]

Her honours at club level include winning two Women’s Super League titles with Liverpool and the FA Cup with both Everton and Arsenal.

And while all of those accolades look great on paper, the obstacles she has overcome along the way makes those achievements stand even taller.

A family breakdown led to her becoming homeless and estranged from her mother Tanya – who she labels as her inspiration – during the early stages of her career.

Speaking to talkSPORT back in 2019, Williams said on her struggles: “The journey I’ve had in football hasn’t been an easy one, but I definitely think it made me the person and player I am today.

“I had some struggles in my early years when the game wasn’t professional.

“I was homeless for a few years back when I was 18. I don’t think that would happen in our game now as I think there’s support for players in need.

“I can’t speak highly of Mo Marley and Hope Powell at the time who were my Everton and England coaches at the time – they really helped me out.

But it hasn’t been an easy ride for the former Arsenal player
Getty Images – Getty

“I had a night where I slept rough, I walked the streets and I didn’t really know what to do. It was actually Hope Powell who took me to a homeless unit to get me into a hostel.

“I had football, so that was something I could focus on. People who I was living in hostels with didn’t have that lifestyle, so I was very fortunate.”

On mum Tanya’s influence, she added: “She’s someone who has inspired me since I was a little girl.

“The tough moments she had that I witnessed. She was able to break down any barrier that was in front of her.

“Growing up on an estate in a cage where you know it was survival mode.

“If you wanted to be a footballer you had to be able to survive within it otherwise you were out of the cage – and I was a little fighter.”

Getty Images – Getty

She insists she has no regrets over hanging up her boots[/caption]

So does Williams, who has made 15 appearances in the WSL this season, believe she will have reservations over calling it a day at the age of 37?

“I don’t think I’ll regret the decision because I certainly think the timing of it is right in terms of how I’m feeling,” she told Faye Carruthers on Women’s Football Weekly.

“But I know I’m going to miss it as the game has given me so many opportunities.

“People talk about dreaming about being a footballer as a little girl; I didn’t actually have that dream. I just went out there and enjoyed every moment of playing football.”

And that she has. But Williams has decided that now is the right time to hang up her boots, largely due to the impact of a pre-existing health condition.

Williams will deservedly go down as one of England’s all-time greats
Getty Images

Williams’ world was rocked last year after being diagnosed with a kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome.

This is caused by an excess leak of protein from blood into urine and can lead to swelling in the legs and ankles.

And in an exclusive interview with talkSPORT on the day she announced her retirement, Williams admitted that the illness had taken its toll on her – physically and emotionally.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about since I was diagnosed with the illness back in May last year,” she revealed.

“I didn’t want the illness to defeat me so I tried to fight on and play.

“I think it’s played a massive part in my decision, thinking about my health, so I just think now is the right time to hang the boots up and see what’s out there for me next.”

So what else is in store for Williams?

“I’ve got a long way to go with my coaching badges at the minute, but I certainly feel ready to coach,” she concluded.

“I’m far away from management at the moment, but in terms of coaching in a first-team environment within the WSL that’s something I’d like to do.

“I’ve been given another ten months with the FA working with the Under-17s as a second coach to that team, so that’s something I’m looking forward to doing and completing my badges.

“And if there’s media opportunities out there for me to talk about the game that has given me so much and that I love so much, then of course that is something I’ll consider.”

Watch this space.