Lauren Wade is enjoying being part of the wave of interest sparked by England women’s Euro 2022 victory after Reading Women gave her ‘too good an opportunity to turn down’.
The fast winger will now play against many of the winning Lionesses week after week in the Women’s Super League and, having secured a move to big football, Wade is telling clubs there is still plenty of talent to pick up. in Northern Ireland.
Reading already know that after also signing Wade’s international teammate, goalkeeper Jackie Burns.
At 28, having previously played professionally in the US, Iceland and Scotland, Wade returned home to Coleraine with the thought that her days at that level were over. She was happy playing for the Glentoran Women and working in the family business, but the temptation to return to the full game was too strong to resist.
“It all happened very quickly,” she explains.
“A couple of days after returning from the Euro, I got a completely unexpected phone call, and I had very little time to make a decision.
“It got to the point where I settled down at home and played for Glentoran, but it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“I was away for so long in different countries and different leagues and as a young girl I always had the desire to play in England, but after all this traveling and then staying at home during the pandemic, I was really happy.
“It was in my head that the Euros were played on the biggest stage and showcase, but did I ever think what would come of it? Absolutely not.
“The drive to play in England and play in the WSL with some of the best players who have played in the Euros against top class players who play in this league has been a big attraction, to play against and play with some of the best players.”
Wade is part of a small group of players who have gone straight from Irish League Premier League clubs to the WSL – only Tyler Toland of Sion Swifts Ladies in Manchester City and Chloe McCarron of Linfield Ladies in Birmingham City Ladies have come before her.
Others, such as Rebecca McKenna and Megan Bell, have joined Premier League clubs, while Demi Vance has moved to Scotland. While Wade’s move was due to her impressing the Euros, she expects clubs in England and even beyond to start looking into what is largely an untapped market in Northern Ireland.
“We used to say that the players on our team are more than good enough to play football full-time,” she adds.
“I know that some girls are happy where they are, but I also know that there are other promising young players who would like to play full-time and are definitely more than good.
“This is what should happen to our players because they deserve this opportunity.
“Those who have played at the Euro have shown that they can compete, so it would be great for football in Northern Ireland to see others follow suit.”
Wade will know she’s making a lot of progress when she looks over her match list and sees the names of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in Reading’s first four matches this season.
She is also encouraged by the domino effect that will be caused by the surge of interest following England’s victory over Germany in the Euro final.
“From what I have seen even on social media, clubs have already sold more season tickets this year than last year, more interest in the women’s game, and selling tickets for an England-US friendly match in less than 24 hours is another it’s a sign too,” says Wade.
“I am convinced that the tournament and England’s victory will have a positive impact and I look forward to being a part of it.”