Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has praised ‘outrageous’ Lauren James after the youngster made her long-awaited debut for the Blues in the Women’s Champions League.
James, who started her career in the Chelsea youth ranks before moving on to Arsenal and Manchester United, completed a high profile return to the club in the summer. But the need to carefully manage fitness issues delayed the youngster’s first appearance by several months.
James appeared as a late substitute in Chelsea’s narrow win over Servette but still managed to impress, despite only getting a few minutes on the pitch.
“She was exceptional. The ball stuck, she held it up really well, she linked really well and she could have scored two goals,” Hayes reflected, via ChelseaFC.com.
“We need to build her fitness, but she has shown that she can bring something to our team. Her technical qualities are outrageous and I am looking forward to building on her debut.”
James, whose brother Reece was also watching from the stands, herself tweeted after the game that she was ‘proud’ and turned a ‘dream into reality’.
Ex-Manchester United boss Casey Stoney referred to James in 2019 as ‘a talent that I haven’t seen in the women’s game before’, underlining the enormous potential within the player.
Until being overtaken by Ella Toone since her departure, James was United’s all-time leading scorer while still a teenager and played a vital role, when fit, in the club’s first two seasons – injuries and fitness trouble began to hold her back more in 2020/21.
The expectation is that with the fitness troubles behind her and mentored under the watchful eye of Hayes, she will become a superstar of the future for both Chelsea and England.