Harry Kane, Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruyff, Ryan Giggs, Gareth Bale: the career of St. Paulis James Lawrence is shaped by encounters with great football legends. In an interview with SPOX and goal the 28-year-old Welsh international tells how it came about.
Lawrence talks about the humor of his national team-mate Bale, about shooting exercises with his former youth coach Bergkamp, about his first meeting with Cruyff in a wheelchair and his unsuccessful attempts to remember his ex-teammate Kane.
Mr. Lawrence, you have dealt with a number of football legends in your career so far. Before which meeting were you most nervous?
Lawrence: My first meetings with Bergkamp and Cruyff were completely unexpected. That’s why I couldn’t prepare for it at all and therefore couldn’t be nervous. Probably the most excited I was before meeting Giggs for my first nomination for the Welsh national team. I hadn’t spoken to him until I arrived at the team hotel, then we talked for around 15 minutes. The nervousness was unfounded. He was very relaxed and the conversation was super nice.
Was there no direct contact with him prior to the nomination?
Is there a national team colleague who has particularly helped you with the integration into the team?
Lawrence: My roommate Daniel James from Manchester United. Although he was relatively new to the team at the time, he already knew a few colleagues. In the beginning he helped me a lot and introduced me to everyone. The integration wasn’t difficult for me because I immediately felt welcome. Shortly after my first assignment, I got a nice message from Chris Gunter, one of the most experienced players on the team. It was a sign for me that I was accepted as part of the group.
They made their debut in autumn 2018, and about a year later they qualified for the European Championship thanks to a 2-0 win over Hungary. How do you remember this day?
Lawrence: That was the best moment of my national team career so far. I remember Giggs walking into the dressing room after the game and saying how proud he was of us. It was also cool that we qualified at a home game in Cardiff. Unfortunately, I had to travel back to Germany on the evening of the game. So I missed the big party, which according to some colleagues should have been quite funny.
Keyword “pretty funny”: After this game Gareth Bale had himself photographed with the whole team behind the now legendary banner “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In That Order”. How did that happen?
Lawrence: Golf is one of his favorite hobbies, but that’s true of half of the Welsh internationals. When we get together in Cardiff, we always go to the same golf course together. Then almost everyone plays along, even the untalented. But I’m so bad myself that I’ve preferred to leave it alone so far. I wouldn’t have a chance against Gareth in golf.
You played with another passionate golfer at the age of nine when you were young Arsenal FC: Harry Kane. Do you remember him?
After two years at Arsenal, you played in the youth of the Queens Park Rangers from 2003 to 2008, before moving to the then Dutch second division club HFC Haarlem at the age of 15. How did that happen?
Lawrence: My mother had taken a job in Amsterdam and to get a feel for the city and the people beforehand, I went there with my parents and my older brother for a month during the summer vacation. The plan was that my mother would then move alone and my brother and I would stay in England with my father and finish school.