Lauren James headed into this summer’s Women’s World Cup having emphasised her desire to make a name for herself – and she has certainly done so with the performances that have followed.
There was already a considerable buzz around the 21-year-old forward – the younger sister of fellow England and Chelsea player Reece James – in the build-up to her first major tournament as a senior international.
And during the Lionesses pre-tournament preparations she spoke about wanting to carve out her own name, saying: “I do feel like that, a lot.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 1, 2023
“Even just, ‘that’s Lauren James, that’s Reece’s sister’ – I want to carve that out and be known as, ‘this is Lauren James’.”
James also said the advice she had received from Reece was to “just enjoy it, have fun, try and score goals”.
And she looks to be having the time of her life so far at the global showpiece in Australia and New Zealand, having registered three superb goals in England’s group-stage matches, plus three assists, to truly announce herself.
The early stages of James’ journey to this point saw her spend time in Chelsea’s academy before moving on to Arsenal and making her debut aged 16 in October 2017.
After a handful of appearances for the Gunners, she left to join Manchester United in 2018 when they were relaunched as a professional outfit in the Championship.
And she went on to play a major role as the Red Devils secured promotion to the Women’s Super League at the first attempt, scoring 14 goals in 18 league appearances in the 2018-19 season.
She netted the club’s first ever WSL goal at the start of the following campaign, was nominated for the Professional Footballers’ Association young player of the year award after it finished and a year later a reunion came about as she rejoined Chelsea.
James had had injury troubles at United, and had limited game time in her first season back with Chelsea.
She then impressed as a regular in the team last term as the west Londoners once again won a WSL and FA Cup double, and reached the Champions League semi-finals.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) August 1, 2023
And she has paid tribute to Blues boss Emma Hayes for helping her get “back to being myself again”, adding: “I had two years of just like constant injuries. She managed me well and it’s allowed me to find my feet again.”
As well as scoring eight goals in all competitions for Chelsea in 2022-23, she also made an England breakthrough, having already represented her country at under-17 and under-19 level and been part of a senior training camp in 2020.
Boss Sarina Wiegman handed James a debut off the bench in England’s first match after winning the Euros, the 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Austria last September.
She then took the player of the tournament of award when Wiegman’s side retained the Arnold Clark Cup in February, scoring her maiden England goal in the 4-0 victory over South Korea that kicked the campaign off.
Inclusion in the World Cup squad – and being named young player of the year at the inaugural Women’s Football Awards – followed in May, and it would be fair to say that James has since lived up her billing as one to watch at the tournament.
After coming on as a substitute when England beat Haiti 1-0 in their Group D opener, James then came into the starting line-up for the second pool match against Denmark and scored a delightful winner, curling in what proved the only goal of the game with a shot from outside the box in the sixth minute.
She then produced an even more eye-catching display as China were thrashed 6-1 on Tuesday, notching a brace with two more wonderful strikes, seeing another ruled out for offside, and setting three goals up.
The youngster labelled “cheat code” by her team-mates became the first England player of either gender to be directly involved in five or more goals in a World Cup match – a rising star shining brighter than ever, who after the China game said that “for sure, there is more to come from me”.