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‘Lauren Hemp effect’ paying off already – ex-coach hails ‘inspirational’ Lioness
The 21-year-old is adjusting to her newfound fame.
Norfolk is now swarming with young girls in Lauren Hemp shirts dreaming of a career just like their local Lioness’s.
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 offerings 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 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 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.
He told the PA news agency: “It’s probably come as a bit of a shock for her, really, that people are starting to ask for autographs.
“She’s going to be an inspiration, not only for many of the young girls at our club, but for many around the country.
“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.
It was a move Norwich City Community Sports Foundation chief executive Ian Thornton believes was a fundamental step in preparing Hemp for international pressure.
“Lauren, like many, found it tough at times being away from home when we were on tour,” recalled Thornton, who served as technical director during Hemp’s stint with the Canaries.
“The biggest piece of advice I ever gave her parents was she needed to practice staying away from home. If she was to progress and get an England call, she needed to be ready and cope with this.
“She practised it and then moved away from home at 16. Probably the hardest and most impressive decision she and her family ever made. Unbelievable strength, desire, to succeed from her and her family.”
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 senior caps later, she’s impressed on major tournament debut this summer, netting in England’s 8-0 group-stage rout of Norway to cement her status as an emerging star for the next decade.
“She is a competitor and a team player,” Thornton added. “She has sacrificed lots, placed herself in some tough situation and worked so hard. She has a bright future ahead of her.”