Lauren James May Only Be 19, But England Call-Up Is Already Long Overdue

Ali Rampling
Nov 18, 2020, 4:15 PM GMT
Lauren James has received her first senior England call up
Lauren James has received her first senior England call up | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Phil Neville has continued to put his faith in youth by selecting Manchester United forward Lauren James for England's upcoming November camp.

The 19-year-old has enjoyed two stunning seasons with United, but has had to bide her time on the England front - something she is not accustomed to.

James was the gem to emerge from Arsenal's illustrious academy. On her 16th birthday, she made her first team debut for the Gunners. Within 10 months she had moved 200 miles away and dropped down a division in her ambitious pursuit of first team football.

Despite not yet being old enough to drive, there was no question that James was ready to play senior football. She had played with boys well into her teenage years and had been training with the Arsenal first team since she was 15. This is evident when watching James play; she is infuriatingly difficult to dispossess, and easing her off the ball is not an option.

But the array of established senior pros ahead of James in the Arsenal pecking order meant that when the newly formed Manchester United came calling, the forward could not resist the allure of first team football and headed up north.

It proved a seamless transition, with James hitting 14 goals in 18 appearances as the Red Devils breezed to promotion. Within 14 months of departing Arsenal and taking a step down a league, James was back on level pegging with her former club, playing against them in the top flight during United's WSL debut.

James can be unplayable
James can be unplayable | Morgan Harlow/Getty Images

The teenager's two seasons at United have demonstrated that she was not only ready for first team football, but she was ready for top flight football too.

James turned in a player of the match performance against Liverpool the day before her 18th birthday, scoring and running rings around the Reds backline as United recorded their maiden WSL victory.

The former Arsenal striker plays with such an aura about her. Her mesmerising feet and her willingness to beat a player show her fearlessness of youth, but there is also a maturity about her intelligence, poise and the way she can dictate the pace of a game.

Under the guidance of Casey Stoney, she can become world class. Training with and learning from Christen Press and Tobin Heath every day is only going to accelerate her potential.

James finished the 2019/20 season with six goals in 12 appearances and was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award - but still an England call up remained elusive.

Neville has little problem throwing youth in at the deep end; Leah Williamson has been a mainstay in the squad since she was 20 - a particularly tender age for a centre back - while 22-year-old Keira Walsh was trusted in the disciplined number four role throughout the 2019 World Cup.

Hemp is one of an assortment of youngsters Neville has put his faith in
Hemp is one of an assortment of youngsters Neville has put his faith in | Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Lauren Hemp made her Lionesses debut shortly after her 19th birthday, while three of the four goalkeepers called up to the last two camps have been 22 or under. Youngsters Ella Toone, Niamh Charles, Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy have all featured in squads over the last nine months.

James, meanwhile, has been made to wait for her maiden senior call-up, despite emerging as one of the most naturally gifted players in the country. She is a talent that Neville has opted to be more cautious and patient with before letting her off the lead.

With England's friendly against Norway cancelled due to the pandemic, the Lionesses are not poised to play an international fixture until 2021, and James will have to hang on a little bit long for her senior debut. It will likely be worth the wait.