Everton Ladies midfielder Angharad James has come a long way in a short space of time. From swapping the quiet life in Wales for the bright lights of London at 15, she has pushed on into the national team, come within a whisker of winning the league and suffered the shock of having her livelihood taken away from her.
Everton magazine sat her down recently and delved a little deeper into her journey to the Blues.
When did your football journey start, Angharad?
I used to play rugby – I am Welsh, aren’t I! – and it was my dad who got me into that early on. He was a coach and a big fan. But when I got to 11 or 12, you couldn’t play with boys any more. So I went to play for a girl’s team but, believe it or not, I was too strong! I couldn’t enjoy it – I just blasted through people!
In the end I changed sport and gave football a go. I had always kicked a ball about but only for fun. But I have not looked back since.
When did it start to get serious for you?
When I was a little older, a mate of mine applied to attend a college linked to Arsenal. She asked me to apply so I could come with her, so I did but in the end I got through and she didn’t! I was put on the standby list for a place then a week before the first term was due to start, someone dropped out, so off I went. I ended up having three years of college in London.
That must have been tough?
I was 15 at the time and I was moving away from literally fields in Haverfordwest to the big city. It was a massive move and the first few weeks I would ring home every day crying my eyes out. But I sucked it up and had three of the best years of my life.
Angharad James (right) challenges fellow Wales international Jess Fishlock, a player she credits for helping her make the grade at Bristol Academy.
How did the move to Bristol come about?
Laura Harvey was manager of Arsenal at the time and she asked if I wanted to go out on loan. I was 17, 18 and too young to break into the first team.
So I went to Bristol on loan but with the intention of playing for Arsenal long term. But Laura left for Seattle and suddenly I had no contact with Arsenal. The loan turned into me leaving and I just stayed at Bristol.
But it was the best thing for me because I would have struggled to break through at Arsenal for a couple of years. But at 17, 18 I was starting in WSL 1 for Bristol. I learned so much in my time there.
You very nearly won the league, didn’t you?
Yeah, we did. We had to play Liverpool on the final day and needed a win. They needed a draw to win it and unfortunately they beat us and we came up short.
We had a lot of character and togetherness. I am seeing similarities to that here at Everton. Bristol taught me that if you have that then you can go far. It was a turning point for me and made me realise I could play in WSL 1.
What made you join Notts County?
I loved it a Bristol and it was like a family. But it was also my comfort zone. I wanted to challenge myself so signed for Notts. Suddenly I was surrounded by international players. The standards were really high in training and preparation for games. I learned so much while I was there. Hopefully I can now bring that to Everton.
James tackles Birmingham's Frida Ayisi during her ill-fated spell at Notts County.
But then things went really wrong didn’t they?
We didn’t find out about the liquidation of the club until the morning it was announced. It didn’t hit me until a few days after. Everything was being taken from you – your job, your house, your livelihood. The two months after it was announced were the worst of my life.
But then Yeovil offered you a lifeline…
“Yeovil were brilliant. I knew Jamie Sherwood from the Wales set up and without him I have no idea what state I would be in now. My confidence had gone. But I am now in a really good place and it’s hard to believe that was only a few months ago.
And now you’re at Everton. What made you join the Toffees?
Yeovil felt like Bristol had – a family environment. A lot of the girls there played for Wales so on the one hand, it was ideal to keep playing with them but on the other, it was feeling like I was back in my comfort zone.
I signed for Everton again to challenge myself. I believe we can compete in this league, set a benchmark this season and build on that going forward. I am really excited to see what we can do.