Lauren James has had an astonishing start to Barclays FA Women’s Super League life since Manchester United’s promotion last season with her head-turning performances that have helped cement her place in Casey Stoney’s side.
The prodigy has flourished and amazed with skills and maturity far beyond her years, scoring 20 goals in 30 appearances and boasting a shots on target percentage that trumps Vivianne Miedema, Pauline Bremer and Beth England, all at the tender age of just 18.
James has already featured for England at Under-17 and Under-19 levels, but with her ability to stand out from more experienced players it begs the question whether the teenager deserves a senior call-up.
With all her qualities and ability, many would say that she is more than deserving of a call-up. She provides a continual flow of goalscoring opportunities for her teammates, whilst scoring a few herself. She could easily offer the bright spark that the declining national team sorely miss, someone to really boost the team and to offer a change of pace and a creative mind. With a new promising talent in the ranks of the national team, it could bring respite to the more ageing players in the squad. James really is something else, she is unlike any young promising talent I’ve seen in a long time, she offers consistent displays which are on par or above that of player much her senior.
A call-up to the national team could also offer her the opportunity to gain experience and further improve her knowledge, by playing against foreign teams she could learn to adapt to different styles of play and from tournament football. A national team call-up could also offer James the opportunity to mix with a new set of players which will help her to mature much further, as we know in the past her passionate displays can often be seen as rather hot headed.
While there are many positives of a first senior call-up for James, would there also be any negatives of being called up so early in her career?
Depending on if and when she is called-up, James could be made to bide her time for on-field minutes with the faith not always being put into youngsters early on in their England careers. Would the attacker benefit if she was initially handed cameo appearances or watching on from the bench or does her talent need to be developed from starting matches?
A call-up to the national team also brings with it the added potential risk for injury due to the additional football. Injuries are unexpected and can happen in any match but with often short turnover time between club and international football, it can see added strain put on players. Should such strain be placed on the fitness of a player just starting out on her senior career?
It is important to ensure that James does not become a player who falls into the category of seeing her career ‘burn out’ before reaching it’s peak. It has been heard of before, when a young player breaks through into their club side and then into the national team with a lot of pressure placed upon them and expectations to perform consistently to live up to their ‘superstar’ status. All players experience lulls in their career where performances may not be at the level they were, but what would this and a potential drop from England do to a player’s confidence? James is currently riding high, almost in a ‘bubble’ where everything is going well and she consistently performs. Should increasing expectation at senior club level be combined with international workload in the future, it could become a careful balancing act for the player.
I believe the question shouldn’t be if James is deserving of a call up, because one thing is for certain; she has proven that she is. The question should be that if selected, does she accept the opportunity and how is her club and international commitments managed?