Ahead of England’s friendly with the USA at Wembley on Friday evening, all English eyes were on who would lead the line for the Lionesses.
With Ellen White retired, Alessia Russo injured and Beth England not called up, England were without all three strikers from their Euro 2022 winning squad. Would Sarina Wiegman take a chance on youngsters Lauren James or Ebony Salmon on such a stage, or would she move Rachel Daly forward from left-back?
When the teams were announced it appeared the answer was neither, and a quick glance at Wiegman’s lineup had most people assuming that Beth Mead was going to play as the number nine, having begun her professional career as a centre forward. But it was Lauren Hemp who was given the nod up front, despite spending the vast majority of her career as a left winger.
“Not too long ago to be honest,” Hemp replied, when asked when she was told she would be leading the line. “Sarina sort of put it on me but I think however I can help the team as much as possible and I really enjoyed it as the nine.
“I mean if I get to play there again obviously who knows – but I don’t want to take it off anyone else to be honest… put me back out on the left!
“It was something new for me, something I haven’t done I don’t think since I was playing at Bristol [City] which is about four, five years ago. But yeah I really enjoyed it, wherever you put me on the pitch I’m going to give it a good go and I enjoyed running in behind, holding play here and there, so it was a nice experience.”
Hemp thoroughly impressed in the slightly unorthodox role, linking up play effectively and wreaking havoc with her directness and pace in behind.
The Manchester City winger rewarded Wiegman for her selection choice inside 10 minutes, latching onto Beth Mead’s teasing low cross and poking home to open the scoring.
England ran out 2-1 winners over the USA, with Sophia Smith and Georgia Stanway also on the scoresheet.
“I don’t score many tap ins so I’ll take whatever goal I can get,” Hemp added. “I think it was more of a right place right time thing.”