‘Lauren Hemp effect’ paying off already – former coach hails ‘inspirational’ Lioness
- Credit: PA
Norfolk is swarming with youngsters in Lauren Hemp shirts dreaming of a career just like their local Lioness.
Her England number 11 kit is most noticeable around North Walsham Town FC, where the 21-year-old began a journey that has taken her all the way to Wembley for Sunday’s Euro 2022 final.
Josh Roper, coach for North Walsham Ladies, has witnessed the ‘Hemp effect’ first hand, crediting the Manchester City striker with an uptick in attendance across girls and women’s games at the club where her autographed shirt occupies a place of honour on the wall.
“We always knew she was going to be successful,” said Mr Roper, who was a volunteer coach when Hemp returned from Norwich for a second spell in her hometown.
"The England call-up happened sooner than we all thought, really, and the fact that she’s such a key player, starting all the games so far has just been amazing.”
Yet Mr Roper, who attended secondary school with the understated forward, does not think the four-time PFA Young Player of the Year puts much stock in her newfound fame.
“It’s probably come as a bit of a shock for her, really, that people are starting to ask for autographs," he said.
“She’s going to be an inspiration, not only for many of the young girls at our club, but for many around the country.
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"The impact is starting to pay off already. We’ve had a new under-nines girls team start this year, we had 24 ladies turn up for training last week. When we started a couple of seasons ago we had less than 10. It’s really kicking off at the moment.
“The girls all have Lauren Hemp shirts popping up everywhere and they’re chanting and singing her name.”
Hemp is the youngest outfield player in Sarina Wiegman’s Euros squad and just three months older than goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, the most junior Lioness.
She followed older sister Amy into football, playing with the boys at North Walsham before moving to Norwich City Girls’ Centre of Excellence aged 10, where she stayed until joining Bristol City as a 16-year-old.
Hemp signed her first professional contract with Manchester City two years later and in October 2019 earned her first senior England cap.
More than 20 caps later, she’s impressed on her major tournament debut this summer, scoring in England’s 8-0 group-stage rout of Norway.
Lauren Hemp's rapid rise
The 21-year-old grew up in North Walsham and has enjoyed a rapid rise to stardom which has taken her to the Euros final with England.
The former Millfield Primary and North Walsham High pupil played for her hometown club before joining the Norwich City youth set up.
She made the step into the professional game with Bristol City in 2016 and her form earned the Young Player of the Year award at the 2018 Professional Footballers' Association Awards.
Her big move to Manchester City followed later that year and a full international debut arrived in 2019, so far scoring eight goals in 26 games for the Lionesses.
She won the Women's FA Cup with Manchester City in 2020 and last season helped her team to win the League Cup and finish third in the Women's Super League to reach the Champions League qualification stages.