From North Walsham to Manchester City - the story of Lauren Hemp’s rise to stardom
2020 Manchester City FC
Perhaps people don’t quite appreciate that Norfolk has a football superstar that calls this county home.
Playing for one of the biggest women’s side in the world? Check.
England regular? Check.
Highly rated by her peers? Check.
Lauren Hemp is by any measure a football superstar – and it all started as an under-8 at North Walsham.
It was here that the Manchester City winger joined her older sister, Amy, to train with the north Norfolk side. Instead of just watching her sister play, she decided to give it a go herself and soon found herself better than the boys she was playing with and against. Her performances were soon getting her noticed and Norwich’s Centre of Excellence came calling.
“I just wanted to follow in her (Amy’s) footsteps and then I got scouted for Norwich Girls Centre of Excellence and from then on I loved it and that’s where I started.”
She was the star of that Norwich City side for several years, combining her schooling at North Walsham High School along with being the Canaries’ outstanding player.
It was clear to many that this strong, powerful, quick winger had what it takes to go higher in the women’s game.
Hemp was attracting interest from several clubs and at 16 a big opportunity and a big decision had to be made. A fiercely proud Norfolk girl, who loves nothing better than spending time with her family, knew if she wanted a career in football then she needed to leave Norwich.
Bristol City Ladies offered Hemp the chance to take the next step in her career. Homesickness would be inevitable but this was overridden by Hemp’s determination to reach the top of the women’s game.
She credits the decision to move from east to west as defining.
“I was still so young, only 16, when I moved to Bristol but I went to look at their facilities and their college set up and everything was perfect for me,” she said.
“It’s a bit of a journey from Norwich to Bristol but I made the decision go and live there and it’s probably the best decision that I made, bar signing for City.
“It’s helped me to become the player and person that I am today. It’s helped me gain my independence – I’ve become so mature at such a young age – moving away at such a young age has helped with that.
“I learned to do things myself that not necessarily all 16 year olds can do.”
Nine goals and 24 appearances later her form was recognised by her peers as she was named the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year.
Manchester City came calling and the 20-year-old signed a “multi-year deal” with the Citizens.
She hopes to inspire other youngsters from Norfolk to follow a similar path and believes there will be even more opportunities for youngsters as the women’s game continues to grow.
“Coming from a small county like Norfolk it’s exciting to see players from around there doing well,” she said. “Obviously I’m a role model and it’s always nice to give them advice and help them to become better players. I’m looking forward to seeing the development of players in Norfolk and hopefully there will be plenty of girls from round there who get to go on and play at a higher level as well.”
Her advice to any young wannabe Lauren Hemps?
“You have to work hard – you can have as much talent as you want but you have got to have the desire and the work ethic to be the best and have big dreams and just go out and get them,” she added.
“If you work hard to be the best you can be then you will get opportunities and when they do come along you have to try and take it with both hands and go and get it.”
Hemp on the comeback trail
Lauren Hemp is plotting her comeback from a hamstring injury and Manchester City’s opponents had better beware.
The 20-year-old had to be withdrawn in City’s defeat to Chelsea in the Community Shield earlier this month but is making good progress in her rehabilitation although the club is reluctant to put a timeframe on her return.
It has given Hemp some time to reflect on what she wants to achieve this season and top of the list is wrestling back the Women’s Super League title from Chelsea, who took the championship on a points-per-game ration last campaign. But that’s not the end of her ambitions.
“As a team I’d love to go on and win the league, Champions League and FA Cup,” said Hemp, who moved to Manchester City from Bristol City in 2018. “It is very exciting the season ahead with the trophies that are up for grabs.
“I’m just looking forward to contributing with goals and assists, helping the team as much as possible to hopefully lift some silverware.
“I’ve had a bit of time off to get my head around the injury but it’s all good. I’ve been working hard and I’m looking forward to being back soon and getting on with the season.
“I’m working hard in the gym and looking to get out as soon as possible – hopefully it won’t be too long.”
Picking up her second PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year award was a nice boost as she hits the comeback trail and looking ahead to a big 2021 Hemp hopes she can play a major part in new England manager Sarina Wiegman set-up.
Phil Neville gave Hemp her England debut and she will always be grateful to the former Manchester United defender for his guidance.
“I can’t thank Phil enough for all the opportunities he’s given me. He was the first person who showed belief in me and gave me the opportunity for the seniors. He gave me my debut and that’s obviously something that I’m very thankful for.
“I’m really looking forward to the next few years ahead both with club and internationally. There’s a lot of major tournaments coming up and I’d love to be a part of it all.
“(But) my major focus now is getting back from my injury, performing for my club and getting results here. Hopefully that will help internationally and see me get opportunities there. I’m just looking forward to starting back playing again and hopefully contributing to the team’s success.”