England dressing room's perfect nickname for Lauren James after World Cup goals

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England dressing room
England dressing room's perfect nickname for Lauren James after World Cup goals

Rachel Daly is chatting to the media when suddenly she breaks off: “Sorry guys,” she says looking over our shoulders at a television monitor, “I just want to watch LJ’s goal again.”

‌The footage runs. It’s Lauren James’s first during the 6-1 thumping of China that has breathed fresh new life into England’s World Cup campaign. It’s a first-time strike, taken with her right foot from outside the area as the ball runs across her. The quality of the technique is jaw-dropping.

‌Daly, who minutes before was sharing a pitch with her, simply mouths: “Wow.”

She wasn’t alone.

Off the pitch, James looks like she’s scared of her own shadow. On it, she’s scaring her opponents witless.

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Aston Villa’s go-to girl Daly - coach Sarina Wiegman’s woman for all positions - is running out of superlatives as far as the 21-year-old is concerned. One sticks out. More of that, later.

‌“I’ll say just one thing,” said Daly before giving us plenty more things, “the night before the match we were walking around the pitch. We’ve come out of the media section and there’s a ‘Player-of-the-match’ sign right there as you walk out onto the pitch.

“I said to her: ‘Have a look at that, kid, because that will be you tomorrow night.’ That’s how much we’re backing her - she’s unbelievable.

‌“You can put her anywhere on the pitch and she’ll get the ball because players want to play with her. Personally, I love linking up with her. She caused China a real problem throughout the whole game.

England dressing room's perfect nickname for Lauren James after World Cup goalsLauren James and Rachel Daly celebrate vs China

‌“She’s a nightmare for defenders because the ball just sticks to her. She’s lethal. There aren’t many more words to say. She’s growing and growing and the most important thing is we stick by her. At the end of the day, she’s still a young player and she’s learning every day.”

‌And the killer line?

It appears to have been first used by skipper Leah Williamson after another virtuoso James performance - this time in the Arnold Clark Cup five months ago after South Korea suffered.

‌“It’s nothing new for us,” said Daly, “like I said the other day it’s nice for the rest of the world to see how good she is. Everyone’s calling her ‘Cheat code,’ - and that’s what she is.”

‌For those who may not know, that term is used by gamers who want to advance to a higher level and use a secret language to gain an advantage. Daly’s words were echoed by skipper Millie Bright who knows full well what James can bring to the table after playing alongside her at Chelsea.

‌She said: “I’m watching Lauren grow - I see her play for our club and now for our country - it’s unbelievable to be in the same team. “It’s not just her. There are other youngsters and I can see all of them coming through. It feels ridiculous and I’m quite proud.

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‌“Players who feel like they can express themselves on the pitch is what we want.”

‌Let’s leave the last word on James to Daly who comes up trumps no matter where Wiegman plays her - on Tuesday night Aston Villa's striker weighed in with the final goal - a volley that was smashed home with all the confidence of a Women's Super League Golden Boot winner.

‌“She will improve and get better,” she said, “she will pick up bits from the older players. But she is LJ - and she is brilliant.”

Neil Moxley

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