Lauren Wade is relishing being part of the wave of interest created by England’s Women’s Euro 2022 victory after being handed “too good an opportunity to turn down” by Reading Women.
he pacey winger will now line up against many of the triumphant Lionesses week in, week out in the Women’s Super League and, having secured her move into big-time football, Wade’s message to clubs is that there is plenty more talent to be picked up in Northern Ireland.
Reading already know that after also signing Wade’s international team-mate, goalkeeper Jackie Burns.
At 28-years-old and having previously played professionally in the USA, Iceland and Scotland, Wade had returned home to Coleraine with the idea that her days at that level were over. She was happy playing for Glentoran Women and working in the family business, but the lure of returning to the full-time game was too strong to resist.
“It all happened very quickly,” she explains.
“Within a couple of days of coming back from the Euros, I got a phone call totally out of the blue and only had a short time to make up my mind.
“It had gotten to the stage where I was settled at home and playing for Glentoran, but it was just too good an opportunity to turn down.
“I had been away for so long in different countries and different Leagues and, as a young girl, I always had that ambition to play in England, but after doing all that traveling around and then being at home through the pandemic, I was really happy.
“I had in the back of my mind that the Euros were playing on the biggest stage and a shop window, but did I ever think this would come of it? Absolutely not.
“The ambition to play in England and play in the WSL with some of the best players who played in the Euros against top-class players who are playing in this League — that was a big attraction, to play against and play with some of the best players.”
Wade is in a small band of players who have gone from Irish League Premiership clubs straight into the WSL — only Tyler Toland from Sion Swifts Ladies to Manchester City and Chloe McCarron from Linfield Ladies to Birmingham City Ladies have gone before her.
Others like Rebecca McKenna and Megan Bell have joined English Championship clubs, while Demi Vance made the move to Scotland. While Wade’s move came about due to her impressing at the Euros, she expects clubs in England and even further afield to start looking at what is largely an untapped market in Northern Ireland.
“We had said before that the players in our squad are more than good enough to be playing full-time football,” she adds.
“I know that some girls are happy where they are, but I also know that there are other up and coming young players who would like to play full-time and are definitely more than good enough.
“It’s what should be happening for our players because they deserve that opportunity.
“Those who did play at the Euros showed that they can compete, so it would be great for football in Northern Ireland if others followed suit.”
Wade will know that she is in the big time when she looks down a fixture list that sees the names Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in Reading’s first four matches of the season.
She is also excited by the knock-on effect that will come from the spike in interest since England’s triumph over Germany in the Euro Final.
“Going by what I have seen even on social media, clubs have already sold more season tickets this year than last year, there is more interest in the women’s game and the England v USA friendly selling out in less than 24 hours is another sign of that too,” says Wade.
“I am convinced that there is going to be a positive impact from the tournament and England winning it and being part of that is something I am looking forward to.”