Emma Hayes on importance of managing Lauren James carefully after first Chelsea goal

Ali Rampling
Emma Hayes has managed Lauren James carefully this season
Emma Hayes has managed Lauren James carefully this season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Emma Hayes has explained that Chelsea are aiming to 'build Lauren James to last' following the highly-rated youngster's first goal in a blue shirt.

The 20-year-old made the switch from Manchester United to Chelsea in the summer, but saw her debut delayed until November following injury.

She has continued to be managed carefully since her first team bow, making just a handful of appearances, but stepped off the bench to net her first WSL goal for Chelsea on Sunday as the Blues ran out 9-0 winners over Leicester.

"Lauren is an unbelievable talent who has come into this environment with a backload of some injury which we've had to get right, and we've had to get the whole holistic approach around Lauren right," Hayes told Sky Sports at full time.

"She wants to play more of course, but her gradual return to the top level is the most important thing for a player of her age, considering she hasn't played three pre-seasons in a row. So we're doing it the right way and it's about building Lauren to last. Today I think was indicative of the performances I've been seeing in training in and out of possession, so I'm not surprised, I'm just so happy for her."

Given James' age and the wealth of attacking options at Chelsea's disposal, the forward was always earmarked as one for the future when she moved to west London in 2021 - despite everything she had already achieved during her time at Manchester United.

James' first Chelsea appearance came during her side's 1-0 Champions League group stage victory over Servette in November. She made her WSL debut for the club against Birmingham 11 days later.

The former Manchester United forward had to wait until February for her first start for the Blues during Chelsea's 7-0 FA Cup fifth round win over Leicester, and opened her Chelsea account against the Foxes in the WSL the following month in another thumping victory.

James netted Chelsea's eighth in a 9-0 win on Sunday, dinking home first time from close range following Niamh Charles' driving run and cross.