by Dan Cope
RYAN Giggs surprised fans when he called up James Lawrence for Wales’ match against Denmark, but what is the story of the relatively unknown 26-year-old Anderlecht defender?
Lawrence started his career in England, playing for Arsenal as a mere 8-year-old prodigy along with Jack Wilshere and Harry Kane, before eventually moving on to QPR at the age of 14.
The Oxford-born defender’s life was then changed forever as his family moved to the Netherlands in 2008. Wanting to continue playing, Lawrence sent various emails to clubs in Holland before being scouted by HFC Haarlem following a trial.
European giants Ajax soon came calling and Lawrence signed for their famous academy side. Speaking about his time there, Lawrence said; “I spent a couple of seasons there, that was obviously a huge deal for me, everybody knows the famed Ajax academy and that was massive.”
After failing to find first team football in Holland, Lawrence moved to Slovakia for AS Trencin. There he scored on his debut, won two league and cup doubles whilst also playing Europa and Champions League football.
His impressive displays for AS Trencin got him noticed by Belgian giants Anderlecht, who Lawrence joined in 2018. He has made six league appearances so far.
Lawrence believes he’s ready-made for Giggs’ new look Wales side.
“One of the first things he (Giggs) said to me was, ‘you suit the style I want to play’, playing out from the back and having good footballing centre-backs is what he wants.
“The past clubs I have played for like Ajax, use that Dutch system of playing out from the back and it’s the same in Belgium so that helps me fit in very well.”
Lawrence, who qualifies for Wales through his grandmother who was born in Haverfordwest, spoke about the prospect of earning his first cap.
“I think the Albania game is more logical than Denmark. Obviously I’m very new here and it’s the first time people have seen me up close, so the Albania game seems more logical to me.”