LAUREN JAMES admits herself that she is a woman of few words.
When she received a phone call from an unknown number in August, a combination of her shyness and easy-going nature meant she let it ring out, only to realise it was Lionesses boss Sarina Wiegman telling her she would be making her England debut.
Spending time with her older brother Reece, they rarely talk about their joint experiences of playing for Chelsea and their country, preferring to keep football separate if they can.
And even when asked if she is happy with her rating of 73 on Fifa 23 – a game that includes women’s clubs for the first time – she simply replied: “Nah.”
After a wry smile, speaking at the Women’s Football Summit, presented by EA SPORTS, she continued: “I guess the stats are based on last season.
“Hopefully I have a good season and next year my ratings go up.
“But, it is inspiration for young girls, being able to actually play with women on Fifa.
“When I was growing up, I could only play with the men.
“Had I been able to play the game as a kid and see women’s faces, I would have thought: ‘That could be me one day’.
“And now, it makes them think: ‘I want to be up there playing’.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
“They will see us on the screens and want to be like us. It has come a long way.”
James, 21, has also come a long way, having made her name as a teenager at Arsenal before moves to Manchester United and now Emma Hayes’ Blues.
Her meteoric rise reached stratospheric levels when recently donning the Lionesses badge for the first time against Austria and Czech Republic.
James said: “My name has been around for a few years but I still feel young. I am still fresh.
“Sometimes it can be forgotten about, my age. I guess I do have a lot to learn and improve and still to prove myself.
“As long as I keep doing myself and what I am doing each day with the games coming up, it gives me a chance to prove that.
“There are a lot of superstars at Chelsea. I have had the right support system around me to keep me grounded and trying not to let the pressure hit me.
“As you can tell I am quite a chilled person so I try not to let it affect me.”
On whether Reece is part of that support system, she said: “We are both proud of each other but we don’t really talk about football together.
“We have a really close relationship but we tend to keep football separate.
“If something needs to be said then we talk about it but because we live and breathe it and do it every day, it is nice to talk about other things.”
James’ move to Chelsea last summer was hampered by injuries, with question marks over whether her big move to west London was a mistake.
But she is now a mainstay in a classy Chelsea side that includes the likes of Millie Bright, Erin Cuthbert and Fifa cover-star Sam Kerr.
James agrees it has been nice to prove the doubters wrong, adding: “It is also a kind of an eye opener to think: ‘Lauren is coming back’, I am just enjoying my football again.
“I don’t let the external noise annoy me. Emma [Hayes] has helped me through it. She also understands the person I am. It is always nice for someone to understand you.”
***Lauren James was speaking at the Women’s Football Summit, presented by EA SPORTS. FIFA 23, is available worldwide on all platforms now***