Niamh Charles Sarina Wiegman Lauren James splitGetty/GOAL

‘We play like Sarina Wiegman is watching’ - How the Lionesses aligned the player pathway to help Lauren James, Niamh Charles and many more become England stars

Sarina Wiegman has done a lot of fantastic things as head coach of the England women’s national team. She helped deliver the Lionesses’ first-ever major title at the home European Championship in 2022 and guided them to a maiden World Cup final the following year. The role the Dutchwoman has played in helping individuals go to new levels shouldn’t be ignored either, with Mary Earps a prime example. But it is something else from Wiegman’s tenure which has been particularly significant.

It was only a few weeks after her appointment when the Football Association (FA) was looking at improving the player pathway and, in turn, reintroduced the Lionesses’ Under-23s team. It might sound trivial, but no fewer than 13 players have progressed through to the seniors via the reformed team, including the likes of Lauren James and Niamh Charles, who are now key figures in Wiegman’s starting XI.

With the U23s joining the senior team for a warm-weather training camp in Spain this week, the England pathway has never been so connected. It means that after establishing themselves as one of the top nations in the women’s game, the Lionesses’ future is bright, too. Wiegman, the (FA) and the staff involved throughout the pathway deserve huge credit, because their hard work is really starting to pay dividends.

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