|Barclays FA Women’s Super League – Manchester City v Brighton|
|Date: Sunday, 15 December Kick-off: 12:30 GMT Venue: The Academy Stadium|
|Coverage: Watch live on the BBC Red Button and online, listen live on BBC Radio Manchester and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.|
Ever since her sister Amy seriously injured both knees and was forced to stop playing when they were at Norwich’s centre of excellence together, Lauren Hemp has strived to reach the top – not just for herself, but for her sister too.
After lifting two domestic cups, making her senior England debut and now signing a new contract with Manchester City, the 19-year-old has certainly done her older sibling proud in a breakthrough 2019.
The former Bristol City star has earned her first three Lionesses caps and ex-England forward and pundit Sue Smith believes Hemp can become “a mainstay” for the national team.
But the teenager’s early successes haven’t come without sacrifice, leaving home in Norfolk at 16 to move to Bristol City, before uprooting again to join Man City in 2018 before her 18th birthday.
“Making these big jumps has definitely helped me become more independent,” Hemp told BBC Sport.
“It’s a massive deal for me and my family because I’ve always been a home girl and I’ve always liked spending time with my family, so that was hard for me, being away from them.
“Now, living on my own and doing things for myself, it’s a massive step for me, but as soon as I moved I realised this is what I love doing. I’m getting to play with some of the top players in the world.”
Hemp, who came on as a substitute to score in May’s Women’s FA Cup final, may not have ever taken up the sport if it had not been for her older sister, Amy.
“I didn’t play until a few years after she [started]. I was normally watching her on the sides. After a while I realised I might as well give it a go,” she said.
“My sister was a big inspiration for me, but she tore both her ACLs and then had to quit. [A football career] was something she wanted so I’m trying not only for me, but also for her.
“At a young age, and where we were in the country, at that level, it was hard for her to get the right treatment to come back from that and risk it. She’s still involved in sport but she’s just not playing football.”
Hemp impressed at Norwich enough to earn a move to the Women’s Super League and Bristol City, where her performances secured her the 2018 PFA Young Player of the Year award.
That summer, she was snapped up by title-chasing Manchester City. “It was something I couldn’t turn down. I’ve loved being here,” she continued.
“Coming here with the facilities and environment, and the people I’d be playing with, it’s not something everybody gets the opportunity to do.”
Her displays for the Citizens have earned her a new “multi-year” contract, which manager Nick Cushing described as an “imperative” deal for the club.
They have also led to senior England action for the Lionesses’ former Under-17 captain, with her debut coming in a friendly away at Portugal in October.
“I was shaking as I was about to go on,” she recalled. “I was really nervous. I was getting ready to make sure that, if I got an opportunity, I took it with both hands.”
Hemp has indeed grabbed her opportunities in the big moments, according to a former star for England in the same position in Smith.
“She seems to turn up and play with no fear, stepping up and showing what she’s about. She gets an opportunity and takes it with both hands,” former Leeds and Doncaster Belles star Smith told BBC Sport.
“She’s quick, strong, powerful and can glide past players with ease. She’s got all of the attributes to be a top-quality wide player or forward player.
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“Going to Manchester City, a big club with big expectation, she’s only young, and yet she’s managed to live up to that pressure.
“Everybody that you speak to about her says she’s got the right attitude. She made all of those sacrifices, moving away from home at a young age.
“That’s because she’s got this desire to be the best. She can only continue in the right direction and, at some point, she will be a mainstay for England, in my opinion.
“If she keeps continuing at that level and keeps performing in these big-pressure games, the world’s her oyster. She gets you off your seat. She’s got a real bright future.”
Man City host Brighton & Hove Albion in the WSL on Sunday, in the final round of fixtures before the division’s winter break.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC in 2019, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.
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