Five minutes with: Three young Lionesses
It was also great to see the next generation of England Lionesses out in force at Nike's new season launch and modelling the latest styles for women. Meet Lauren Hemp (Bristol and England), Gabby George (Everton and England) and Keira Walsh (Manchester City and England).
LH: Hi, I’m Lauren Hemp. I’m 17 years old and I’ve been playing since I was 13 for England.
GG: Hi, I’m Gabby George, 21 years old and I’ve been playing for England since I was 15.
KW: And I’m Keira Walsh, I’m 20 years old and I’ve been playing for England since I was about 12 years old.
FP: Was playing for England and being a footballer always what you wanted to do? Or was it something you figured out you were very good and started playing?
LH: I don’t really know, my sister started playing so I kind of got into it through her and from then that’s all I really wanted to do.
FP: Cool so who’s your club team?
LH: Bristol City. I’ve been with them about two years since I started college.
FP: What about you, Gabby? Tell me a little bit about your early career, your club team… what’s your ultimate goal as a footballer?
GG: I play for Everton Ladies and I started playing in school with the lads and I never really knew how far you could go but now. I signed my first professional contract just over a year ago now and the dream is to play for the seniors.
FP: And you Kiera? Same question.
KW: I just started playing on the field opposite my house with my Dad. Like Gabby said, I didn’t really know much about women’s football when I was younger but now the game’s growing it’s fantastic. I play for Man City and I’ve played for them for four years. I made my debut for England in 2017 so I think’s maybe to keep getting involved in the senior squad and hopefully play more games for them.
FP: How inspiring has the senior squad been? They did very well at the World Cup, they did an amazing job at the Euros. As a woman, everyone has lots of other interests… have they really inspired you to stick at it?
LH: [It helps] when girls are watching and seeing how well they’re doing. Finishing third in the World Cup and doing so well in the Euros does inspire a lot of young girls and show them that girls can play just as well as men.
FP: Kiera, with Man City doing so well at club level, who would you say has been your biggest, not necessarily mentor, but person you look up to on the team?
KW: I’d probably say Steph Houghton, she’s the ultimate professional and does everything she’s supposed to. If younger players are looking for someone to go and speak to about problem on and off the pitch, If you don’t feel like you’re training well or games aren’t going your way, then she's always there and always a calming influence. She’s someone I would say that most people look up to on the team when the going gets tough so I would say Steph’s a mentor.
FP: That’s awesome. Gabby - as a fan, who do support? Obviously you play for Everton…
GG: I support Manchester United. I used to play for them until I was 15/16, they haven’t got a senior team so I moved on to Everton. They’ve got a Centre of Excellence which I think has changed to Under 16s now, but it was Under 17s when I was there. We won the league twice back to back. They’ve got a good set up there and they bring through some good players.
FP: So who’s your favourite Manchester United player?
GG: Well my cousin is Jesse Lingard so I’ve got to say him!
FP: Cool, do you guys talk about football, as you guys are both professional?
GG: Yeah we talk about football but mostly just our normal life.
FP: What do you think of his goal celebration?
GG: Yeah, he can dance can’t he? (laughs)
FP:… So who was your team, Lauren?
LH: I support Norwich because I originally come from there. They’re in the Championship. Because I’m now based in Bristol, I haven’t seen them as much. As soon as I’m back home my family we all go together- we used to have a season ticket.
FP: How do you guys think women’s football can gain parity with the men’s game? Women’s football came back in the 1970s after being banned for so long. How do you think we can get women’s football on the same level as the men’s? From a players point of view, what needs to change to enable that to happen?
KW: I just think the perception about the women’s game is that it isn’t as technical, that we don’t play at the same tempo. Most people that do come and watch actually enjoy doing it and realise we can play. I think it’s just about getting people down to watch a game for the first time, keeping them coming and getting the attendance up. Through that you obviously get more sponsorships and there’ll be more money in the game.
FP: Do you think it’s something the women’s press can do something about? Because when I think of magazines, I can probably count the amount of female footballers that have been featured on my hands. Do you think they have a part to play? I mean we’ve been talking about the suffragettes anniversary recently and everyone is talking about women power. This is something that can be supported.
GG: I just think in order for it to grow, it needs more coverage. I think we’ve had more over the past couple of years but it still needs to continue growing because the attendances have gone up since we’ve had more coverage on BBC, BT, Facebook. We just have to continue doing that because if it’s on TV, people will start watching and want to come down to the game. Getting it out there that when it’s on means more media coverage.
LH: Basically the same from me- making people aware of us. Obviously they know all about the men’s game and so many people turn up to them, it’s just getting them to come down for us.
FP: Do you think this is something male footballers can help with as they have such big followings anyway?
LH: Yeah I think it’s about getting them involved in the women’s game, being aware of how we play and stuff like coming down to the games and stuff. That would get more people wanting to join.
FP: What is your prediction for the World Cup?
LH: Hopefully they’ll win it.
KW: I’m going for an England win with young players coming through.
FP: And finally, as we're all about fashion and football, what do you think about the new kit?
KW: I think it’s nice, it feels like a good fit. I like the subtle design of the cross down the middle. I think it’s a little bit unique and I’ve not really seen it on a kit before.
GG: I like the fit - the shorts are really comfortable.
FP: You’re wearing the new hoodie (sportswear) Lauren, what do you think about that?
LH: It’s really comfortable, I quite like it as well. It’s got a crop top underneath which is nice.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Words Felicia Pennant