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Lauren James: England’s new superstar taking World Cup by storm

James, 21, is carving her own legacy away from older brother and Chelsea right-back Reece James, who regularly appeared alongside his sister at junior level

Sonia Twigg
Saturday 12 August 2023 06:01 BST
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What to expect at the Women's World Cup 2023 | You Ask The Questions

Technically gifted England forward Lauren James has already become one of the breakout stars of the 2023 Women’s World Cup for her thrilling performance against China.

While at times ‘LJ’ has faced criticism for being inconsistent, on the biggest stage she has hit her best form with two goals and three assists in the final group match as England sailed through to the knockout round.

England manager Sarina Wiegman hailed James for doing “special things” during the 6-1 win over China, while the player herself told the TV cameras after the game that the performance was what “dreams are made of”.

But her rise to the top has been an interesting story. James, 21, has a famous older brother in the shape of wing-back Reece James, who now plays for Chelsea’s men’s team but previously regularly appeared alongside her at junior level.

The pair were raised in Mortlake, with their father Nigel, a Uefa-licensed coach, playing a crucial on helping to development their obvious talents.

Growing up her evenings were spent in a park, chasing after her two older brothers as she has often admitted to having only played football with boys while growing up.

Hundreds of hours practising drills in the garden with her father eventually led her into the Chelsea under-10s girls team, but it was when she moved to Arsenal as a teenager that her career took off.

Far outclassing the girls at her age group, she went straight into the boys’ team, a testament to the skill nurtured by her father in the local leagues, and was invited to train with the senior team at just 15 years old.

Lauren James had a game to remember against China (PA Wire)

James was the second-youngest player in Arsenal’s history to make their debut, which she did on her 16th birthday. However, she moved to Manchester United in 2018 in a bid for first team football, despite taking a step down into the second tier.

In 2021, after a successful time in Manchester, James re-joined her first club, and the one her brother plays for, to play under Emma Hayes at Chelsea.

Her own recognition is something she has strove for, and to move outside the shadow of her brother. She said ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup that she wanted to “carve out [her own name] and be known as ‘this is Lauren James’”, and after her stunning performances in the group stage, she could even eclipse her brother in terms of global profile.

Undoubtedly the future is bright for the 21-year-old who was named Young Player of the Year Award at the Women’s Football Awards.

An article in the Daily Mail predicted that her stunning performances at the World Cup could see her double her income, and lead to sponsorship deals beyond her current positions at Sure and as a Google Pixel and Nike ambassador.

Reece James celebrates winning the Champions League with sister Lauren James (Getty Images)

Naturally, her influence on social media has exploded since shining on the biggest stage, her Instagram followers have tripled in recent weeks, and she looks set to follow in the footsteps of fellow Lionesses after winning the Euros in 2021 with a meteoric rise to fame, much like Leah Williamson and Beth Mead.

An unapologetic Londoner in an environment where no one in the Euros squad was born inside the M25, James has a love of the city and urban music, which helps her unwind and prepare for games. Her playlist features J Cole, Drake, Lil Durk, and Lil Baby and Jorja Smith heavily.

Once described as Chelsea’s “cheat code” by England captain Leah Williamson, it seems that the sky is the limit for the 21-year-old. And with England having reached the knockout stages, who knows how big her name will be when the curtain falls on this tournament on 20 August.

Get all the latest Women’s World Cup odds here

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