Wales star footballer Angharad James was a special guest on the radio

Angharad James having a laugh in training 

Star woman footballer Angharad James was a special guest on BBC Sport Wales radio station hosted by Elis James, orginally from Haverfordwest, alongside former Wales internationals Danny Gabbidon and Iwan Roberts.

James spoke candidly on how hard it was to break into the Wales squad as a 17-year-old, she has incredibly won 82 caps and is only 26, she’s marching towards that exclusive ‘100 Cap’ club.

Back in the day James attended Ysgol Preseli School at the same time as Wales star Joe Allen.

“It’s a strange because everyone puts me in the bracket of being an older player which I think in the grand scheme of things 26 is not an old player,” said James.

“I have been around for quite a while, I was 17 when I first broke into the senior group so it is near enough ten years that I’ve been playing senior international football – hope it’s not going to take its toll for an early retirement.”

Feeling settled

Breaking into international football at what stage did James feel comfortable as part of the camp – was it straight away or did it take a while before she really felt she belonged?

“Only over the past three or four years have I really settled in and feeling comfortable in the environment.
“It’s always daunting coming into a camp at such a young age. With people you have looked up to for years, watching them on tv, coming into that environment making sure you don’t make a mistake, you do everything as professional as you can be. It has taken me a good few years to feel settled.

“It’s only the last few years I’ve reached the levels you should be achieving on the international stage, but it has helped me being around players, with more experienced players that are doing so well at their clubs.”

Club feeling

She speaks about her close Reading team-mates Jess Fishlock, Rachel Rowe, Natasha Harding and Lily Woodham who are in the Wales squad helping her feel it is a more club than international feel in the camp.

“There are five us in the squad and it helps things as we play with each other day in day out. Playing together at Reading is only going to benefit us playing for Wales in the long term.

“Seeing the same girls for 300 days a year is a bit tough,” she added tongue in cheek.

“We are such a good group of friends off the pitch as well, so it is nice to have that connection both on and off the field. It’s in them circumstances you feel more comfortable – it’s knowing your role within the group.

Hardest part

When I first came into the senior group my role wasn’t to perform week in week out for 90 minutes on the pitch. My role was to make sure the eleven players starting are ready for the game.

“When you start breaking into the starting team, you come in and come out and that’s the hardest part – of feeling comfortable where you belong. I feel that is so hard to deal with as a player, when you get your consistency and confidence that’s when you see the best side of you as a footballer.

“It does help having us as a group from Reading coming into international duty is helping Lily Woodham – she is quiet on camp but at Reading she is one of the loudest ones so it’s getting that balance right.”

Last qualifier

Wales’ final UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 qualifying round match against Belarus on Tuesday, December 1 at Rodney Parade, Newport.

Wales are level on points with Northern Ireland - both on 11 - but Kenny Shiels' side will be in a play-off if they win at home to the Faroe Islands on Tuesday after they recorded a crucial 3-2 win over Belarus on Friday.

Northern Ireland's women's team has never previously taken part in a major championship or been in a play-off to reach one.

Wales need to beat Belarus on Tuesday and hope Northern Ireland drop points against the Faroe Islands. Should both teams finish on the same number of points, Northern Ireland will finish higher by virtue of scoring two away goals in their 2-2 draw with Wales in Newport last year.