England Women’s imminent World Cup campaign received the royal seal of approval on Wednesday as HRH The Duke of Cambridge spent some time with Mark Sampson’s squad at St. George’s Park.
The Lionesses have enjoyed a tough 10-day training camp at the national football centre and it was brought to a close with an extended meet-and-greet session with Prince William, The FA’s President.
It was the Duke’s first visit to St George's Park since its official opening in October 2012.
He said: “As President of The FA, I am delighted that women’s football has become such a central part of our daily work across the country.
“The senior England team are the pinnacle of this and I am sure all football fans will join me in hoping they do well over the coming days.
“Having had the chance to meet the squad and having followed their progress in qualifying, I know they are determined to do their very best at the finals. And I believe their involvement will inspire more girls up and down the country to get involved in the game.
“I was also delighted to see the new Wembley stage its first full England women’s international earlier this season and it is great news that The FA Women’s Cup Final will be held at the national stadium in August.
“With the Women’s Super League expanding, these are truly exciting times for the women’s game.
“A positive performance in Canada will only further the growth of the women’s game. So good luck to all involved.”
The Duke was shown around St. George’s Park by Chairman David Sheepshanks CBE and managing director Julie Harrington.
Prince William signed his name on the wall in the football centre before being introduced to head coach Sampson and captain Steph Houghton.
He then went around the Billy Wright dressing room at St. George’s Park and met every one of the 23 players who will fly out to Canada on Monday 25 May.
Fara Williams, England’s most capped player, then took the Duke to the Futsal hall where he spoke to Gareth Parker, head of the Homeless FA – a body for which Williams is a patron.
He also got to inspect the state-of-art facilities at close quarters by watching Jodie Taylor run on an anti-gravity treadmill in the Perform gym.
After a light lunch with Dan Ashworth, The FA’s director of elite development, Dave Reddin, head of performance services, and Brent Hills, head of women’s elite development, the future King watched England train and posed for photographs with the whole squad and backroom staff.
Prince William's visit was brought to an end when Sampson presented him with an England shirt for his baby daughter Charlotte.
Houghton said: “It was a day we will all remember for a long time.
“It is fantastic to know Prince William is behind our World Cup campaign.
“I was really nervous beforehand but he was lovely. He knew all about the team and our qualifying campaign.
“You could sense the excitement and the buzz in the dressing room beforehand. All the girls were really excited, and really proud to know the future King will be following us in Canada.”
England’s opening World Cup match is against France on Tuesday 9 June.