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    Tom Cleverley reveals he received Man Utd hate mail, got Fergie rollickings and Liverpool killed his Old Trafford career

    TOM CLEVERLEY has lifted the lid on his Manchester United career – and how losing to Liverpool was the beginning of the end of his time at Old Trafford.Watford star Cleverley, now 33, realised a dream when he played for the club he supported as a boy and helped them win a Premier League title.
    Tom Cleverley has opened up on his Manchester United career and the ruthless instincts of Sir Alex FergusonCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    The Championship midfielder still has vivid memories of this time with United, the good and the bad.
    And he shared them with the club’s fans in a frank article on their website in March 2019, detailing how leaving the club hit him hard mentally.
    He said: “I was looking forward to 2012-13. The whole squad had a big boost, actually. Robin.
    “For longevity, I have to say that Scholesy and Wazza are the best two players I’ve played with in my career so far, but if that Premier League winner’s medal in my trophy cabinet was owed to someone, it would have to be Robin van Persie.

    “He was unbelievable. As an individual season, you’ll struggle to find many better than him in 2012/13.
    “Games where we didn’t even play well, that were such stalemates, you could just give him the ball and he would make a goal out of nothing. Just an unbelievable finisher.
    “For me, I couldn’t have imagined his move going as well as it did. Everything he struck that season seemed to find the back of the net.
    “How 2011/12 ended. It doesn’t get much worse.

    “I wasn’t in the squad at Sunderland that day, but I was on my way down from the directors’ box at the Stadium of Light and as soon as Dzeko scored City’s equaliser, I knew. I could see it unfolding and that it was meant to be theirs.
    “It was a terrible, terrible day in my career.
    “I still can’t listen to Martin Tyler’s commentary when the clip comes on Sky Sports.
    “I’ll never forget in the dressing room after that game. The manager said to us all: ‘I told you. That’s why I wanted you to be more ruthless and really kill teams, because you can lose leagues on goal difference.’
    “And he was right. We’d gone in after beating teams 3-0 or 4-0 that season and he still hadn’t been happy with us in the dressing room.
    “That’s how much of a winner he was, how ruthless he wanted us to be.”
    “When I look back on 2013/14, two games were massive in, well, my downfall, I suppose.
    “Liverpool away at the start of the season, we got beat 1-0, and it was a flat performance from myself. I’d already had a man-marking job on Hazard in our previous game against Chelsea, and that day I had the same job on Coutinho at Anfield.
    “For me to show the other side of my game, it was tough. Then you start hearing whispers.
    “It’s hard to get away from it all when you’re living in Manchester, your mates are all United fans and you’re playing for the biggest club in the world. Looking back, I probably wasn’t mentally ready for everything that was going to come my way.
    “I struggled with the mental side of things. In the mix of it all I had a couple of good games – the manager still had the faith in me to play and I played a lot that year – but then the Olympiacos away game killed me, really. I was poor that night.
    “The snowball had already started, but now it had real momentum.
    “I remember my next start, four weeks after Olympiacos, going into the City game at home when we got beat 3-0 and I’ve never, ever been lower on confidence.
    “For me, confidence is the biggest attribute a footballer can have, and that night I had none of it.”
    “I’m not going to lie and say that I was enjoying my life at that time. Football was my life.
    “I was playing for a club that I loved, I’d worked so hard to get there and I could see it falling apart. It was devastating.
    “You get letters at the training ground. You try to respond to fan mail, but in the end it gets to a point where you’re better off not reading it.
    “Social media was just a hindrance, so I closed my accounts. Having a lot of followers on Twitter meant a lot less to me than my mental health and my football career.
    “I just got rid of it all and I’ve never gone back on since. I think that’s been good for me.” More

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    I was taken to Pizza Express by Roy Keane who tried to persuade me to sign for Sunderland but I knew we would not get on

    MIDO once deep panned Roy Keane after revealing all about the meal that persuaded him never to play for the Manchester United legend.No amount of dough would have persuaded the Egypt striker to sign after the then-Sunderland manager invited him to Pizza Express in 2006 for what he thought would be a friendly “come and join us” chat.
    Mido was taken for lunch at Pizza Express by Roy Keane but the pair didn’t exactly hit it off
    Mido, who was with Spurs at the time, said Keane “didn’t talk much” – and he would “end up fighting” with the former Republic of Ireland legend if he played under him.
    Ex-Ajax and Marseille star Mido told talkSPORT how he couldn’t wait to dessert his less-than-topping dining experience with Keane.
    So instead he left Tottenham for a three-year spell with Sunderland’s North East rivals Middlesbrough.
    The now 40-year-old said: “My agent Mino Raiola said, ‘Mido, Roy Keane wants to have lunch with you and show you the training ground’.
    “So I went to Newcastle airport. He came to pick me up in his Range Rover, we went to Sunderland and he took me to lunch to Pizza Express.
    “I was very surprised that he didn’t talk to me much.
    “Normally you get a player for lunch, you try to talk to him and try to convince him to sign for your club, but he didn’t talk much, he was just very quiet.
    “I knew straight away that me and him, we could not work together, we would end up fighting. He was talking to me and looking at the ceiling.
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    “I knew straight away that it would not work.”
    Ultimately, Keane’s managerial career crumbled – after two-year spells with Sunderland and Ipswich.
    Mido has grabbed a slice of the managerial action himself – with four Egyptian clubs before taking over Saudi Arabia’s Al-Wehda Club in December 2018.
    He was most recently in charge Egyptian side El Makkasa, but was sacked in 2020 after just six months in charge. More

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    Man Utd TEAM Sir Alex Ferguson ALMOST signed, including Zidane, Lewandowski, Shearer, Ronaldinho, Gazza and Kompany

    SIR ALEX FERGUSON retired as arguably the greatest football manager  – certainly in Premier League history, at least.The Manchester United legend won 13 Premier League titles as well as five FA Cups and two Champions League crowns.
    Sir Alex Ferguson was the greatest Premier League manager of all-timeCredit: Getty
    The best XI of players Ferguson narrowly missed out on
    Despite boasting a host of stars, including David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville down the years, Fergie often worked wonders with less quality than his rivals.
    You only need to look at what’s happened to the club after his retirement to see just how remarkable a coach he was.
    But that’s not to say Ferguson didn’t try to make big moves in the transfer market.
    Most-recently, Robert Lewandowski revealed he was ‘ready’ to join United in 2012 – ahead of Fergie’s final season – but was blocked from leaving by Borussia Dortmund.
    But the now-Barcelona star is by no means the only player Ferguson missed out on despite making his move.
    We’ve taken a look at the best XI of players Man Utd nearly signed under Fergie:
    GK – Petr Cech
    Before becoming a Chelsea legend, Cech could have been a United starCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    BEFORE he became a Premier League legend with a glittering spell at Chelsea and a late stint at Arsenal, the Czech stopper was a youngster at Ligue 1 side Rennes.
    Aged just 19, Cech was starting to make a name for himself, with Ferguson watching him closely.
    However, the then-Man Utd boss opted against a move as he believed him to be too young to stand between the sticks at Old Trafford.
    Ferguson revealed: “I went to see Petr Cech when he was at Rennes. He was 19 at the time and I said to myself, ‘He’s too young’.”
    In 2004, Chelsea made their move and the rest, as they say, is history.RB – Philipp Lahm
    Philipp Lahm was once on the radar of Man UtdCredit: AP:Associated Press
    IN the 2003-04 season, Bayern Munich legend Lahm was shipped out on loan to Stuttgart to get some first-team experience – but still at a top level.
    Man Utd took on the Bundesliga side in the Champions League that season and Lahm starred in a 2-1 win.
    Able to play at right-back, left-back and central midfield, Ferguson was keen to sign him based on that one game, according to Lahm’s former Bayern coach Hermann Gerland.
    Speaking about loaning Lahm out, Gerland revealed: “It was not easy to arrange. But at Stuttgart, Philipp could play in the Champions League.
    “After three months he was the best player on the field against Manchester United.
    “Sir Alex Ferguson wanted him in England, I think that says enough.”CB – Vincent Kompany
    Kompany could have been a winner in the red of Manchester, rather than blueCredit: Getty Images – Getty
    THE Belgian star is a real Premier League legend, leading Man City to an unprecedented period of success in their history.
    Kompany played a vital role in all four of their league triumphs – including his stunning, out-of-the-blue strike against Leicester to keep Liverpool at bay in the 2019 season.
    But things could have been so different, with then-Anderlecht ace Kompany top of Ferguson’s wish list in 2004 – with the defender aged just 18.
    The move never came to fruition though and the Belgian ended up at Man City – via Hamburg – in 2008.
    Watching him have such success must be a bitter pill to swallow for United fans – especially as it came for their rivals.CB – Paolo Maldini
    Fergie once chased Paolo Maldini, but was turned down by his dad
    AFTER years of being stuck with the likes of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, Man Utd could have once had arguably the greatest defender of all time on their books.
    But in truth, it was never going to happen – thanks to Maldini’s dad, Cesare.
    Ferguson approached him during an event in Italy and mentioned he was a big fan of his son but was swiftly rebuffed.
    Fergie recalled: “Well I did try. But when I met his father he was quite formidable. I got a shake of the head. That’s all I got.
    “He did say ‘my grandfather was Milan, my father’s Milan, I’m Milan and my son is Milan. Forget it’.”LB – Bixente Lizarazu
    Bixente Lizarazu was once the top left-backs on the planetCredit: Reuters
    AT the time the best left-back in the world, Lizarazu was once being lined up to replace Denis Irwin at Old Trafford.
    But Bayern Munich were adamant their star man wouldn’t be going anywhere while at the peak of his powers.
    Lizarazu revealed: “I had the chance, I think in about 2001 or 2002, to go to Manchester United, but it stopped very quickly as Bayern said no.
    “Ferguson was keen to sign me and United had talks with Bayern, but Bayern said there was no question that I’d be leaving and so I was staying with them.
    “I was very happy in Munich, but Manchester United did try.”CM – Paul Gascoigne
    Ferguson had his head turned by a young Gazza during his Newcastle daysCredit: Getty Images
    JUST a year into his reign at Man Utd, Ferguson was left in awe of one man… Gazza.
    During a game against Newcastle, Gascoigne schooled Norman Whiteside, Bryan Robson and Remi Moses – midfielders Fergie described as ‘all great players’.
    But they were made to look like Sunday League players by Gascoigne’s artistry, with Fergie saying ‘he just tore them apart’.
    Ferguson was later left devastated after Tottenham beat him to the punch – after they bought Gazza’s parents a new house to sweeten the deal.
    The Scot recalled: “I’m lying by the pool when there is a tannoy for me to take a call.
    “It was [chairman] Martin Edwards telling me Tottenham had [signed him instead] by buying Paul’s mum and dad a house in the north east.”CM – Zinedine Zidane
    Ferguson was worried Zidane and Cantona would not be able to play together
    ERIC CANTONA or Zinedine Zidane? That was the big conundrum for Ferguson.
    With Cantona already on the books, both the French forward and then-chief scout Les Kershaw recommended Zidane to the Scot boss.
    But, feeling they both played the same position, Ferguson opted to stay loyal to his own star.
    Former chairman Edwards recalled: “When Zidane was at Bordeaux, Les Kershaw, the chief scout, was telling me we should be interested in him and I mentioned it to Alex.
    “Alex said that Eric had also mentioned Zidane to him but Alex felt Zidane played in the same position as Eric.
    “Having gone over to France to persuade Eric to re-sign for us, after the Crystal Palace incident [with Cantona banned for eight months for his kung-fu kick], he felt that, if he had brought Zidane in, it may have affected Eric’s position, so he stuck with Eric.”RW – Arjen Robben
    Arjen Robben met with Man Utd during his time at PSVCredit: AP:Associated Press
    DURING his time at PSV Eindhoven, before he became one of the most-feared wingers on the planet at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Robben thought he was destined for a move to Old Trafford.
    The Dutch legend insisted he would have moved to United in a heartbeat, but they went cold on him, before the Blues swooped.
    Robben recalled: “I had a very good conversation with [Ferguson] over dinner in Manchester and we spoke about football and life.
    “I also went and had a good look around the training ground and everything was good.
    “But after I went back to PSV nothing happened. There was no real contact and the deal didn’t happen.
    “PSV were also negotiating with Chelsea at that time, so maybe they offered PSV more money? I don’t really know.
    “I spoke to Chelsea and I liked their plans. We had one meeting and everything was done pretty quickly.
    “Had Manchester United offered me a deal straight after I met them, I would have signed there, but it didn’t happen and I’ve got no regrets.”LW – Ronaldinho
    Man Utd wanted Ronaldinho while he was still at PSGCredit: Getty
    A YEAR on from his 2002 World Cup heroics, still aged just 23, Ronaldinho could have been a United player.
    Then at Paris Saint-Germain, the Brazilian was being lined up to replace David Beckham on the wing after he was sold to Real Madrid.
    Clearly still bitter about the failed move, Ferguson blamed then chief executive Peter Kenyon for dropping the ball.
    Fergie claimed: “There was a problem with his brother, who was his agent.
    “But Peter Kenyon, who was chief executive then, didn’t get the job done.”ST – Alan Shearer
    Alan Shearer stayed loyal to Blackburn owner Jack Walker and snubbed UnitedCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
    MAN UTD wanted Shearer. Shearer wanted Man Utd.
    The only problem was then-Blackburn owner Jack Walker, according to ex-United chief Edwards.
    In his autobiography, he wrote: “Shearer had been to Alex Ferguson’s house, spoke to him and assured him he wanted to come.
    “The problem, I think, was with the chairman of Blackburn, Jack Walker, who was not a great fan of Manchester United, [we were] local rivals, both Lancashire clubs.
    “He did not want Alan Shearer to come to Manchester United.
    “Shearer was quite close to Walker, who was like a father figure to him, and I don’t think Alan wanted to upset him by coming to United.
    “And I’m not sure Jack would have let him come anyway, whereas he was happy for Alan to go to Newcastle, I don’t think that was a threat to him.”
    Fergie’s almost XI is mouth-watering but how does it compare to the team Arsene Wenger nearly assembled at Arsenal?
    ST – Robert Lewandowski
    Lewandowski wanted to move to Man Utd in 2012 after Fergie’s approach only for Dortmund to block it
    MUCH like Shearer, the feeling was mutual between Lewandowski and United.
    Unfortunately, Dortmund were unwilling to let the Polish superstar – who won the Best Fifa Men’s Player award for 2020 – leave in 2012.
    In the end Fergie turned to Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie to fill the striker’s berth, which didn’t work out too badly.
    Lewandowski eventually forced a move to Bayern two years later on a free and would go on to become one of the world’s best – even if he missed out on the Ballon d’Or.
    Looking back at his failed to move to Old Trafford, Lewandowski told France Football: “After my second year in Dortmund, I had a conversation with Sir Alex Ferguson.
    “He wanted me to come to Manchester.
    “I was very interested. I can even say I was ready. But Dortmund didn’t want to let me go.
    “It didn’t upset me more than that because things were going well with Borussia.” More

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    Man Utd icon Roy Keane admits he never warmed to Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand and had a bust-up over watching X Factor

    ROY KEANE revealed he never warmed to Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand in the Manchester United dressing room.The former hardman said he did not get the England striker or team-mate Ferdinand’s banter – and did not miss them after he left Old Trafford.
    Manchester United legend Roy Keane claimed he never warmed to Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand
    Keane, 51, reckoned he was not on the same wavelength as Roo, who is 14 years his junior.
    And that was highlighted during their playing days on a trip to Newcastle where the night before in the hotel Keane was watching rugby league on the TV before Rooney changed the channel to watch the X Factor and hid the remote control.
    Roo – who retired from playing to become permanent Derby manager two years ago – claimed later it led to an argument between the pair and Keane respected him for standing up to him.
    But Keane, speaking on Sky Sports’ The Football Show said: “We certainly didn’t have an argument, let me tell you.
    “I like my rugby league and yeah, someone did change the channel and I wasn’t happy.
    “But we didn’t have an argument about it. I came down for breakfast the next day and Wayne said ‘Did you find the control?’
    “So I told him where to go. If that’s an argument, God help us. I certainly didn’t respect Wayne because he stood up to me and wanted to watch the X Factor.
    “I had a lot of respect for Wayne because I thought he was a brilliant player.
    “I wouldn’t say I warmed to the guy, I certainly didn’t dislike him. But the lad’s on a different wavelength, different banter and if hiding the control was his type of banter then… not for me.”
    Keane made 480 appearances for United in 12 years, but he said: “Near the end, I remember thinking I don’t get some of the boys.
    “I don’t get their banter or humour. I rarely had a conversation with anyone.
    “When I left there were a lot of players I didn’t miss. The game was changing and maybe I was a bit grumpy, a bit old school.
    “I didn’t get Wayne or Rio, I didn’t get their banter or what they stood for sometimes. It was probably a personal thing.
    “The game was changing and I had changed with it but towards the end at United with the players coming through I didn’t always get them.
    “Personality-wise they were not for me.
    “Obviously, they were very good players and I was delighted to play with them but in terms of banter or having a cup of coffee with them? No forget it.”
    Keane played with Rooney at Old Trafford between 2004-2005Credit: PA:Empics Sport
    Roy Keane reveals he once had a fight with Peter Schmeichel in a hotel – leaving Sir Alex Ferguson fuming More

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    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘rejected offer from Premier League club after Man Utd sacking but now wants return to dugout’

    OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER reportedly rejected an offer from a Premier League club after his Manchester United sacking.But the tactician is now ready for a return to the dugout.
    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ready for a dugout return after snubbing a Premier League side this seasonCredit: Getty – Pool
    Norwegian outlet VG claims Solskjaer was approached by the unnamed top flight side following his Old Trafford exit in November 2021.
    A dismal run saw United lose at home to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
    But a 4-1 defeat away to relegation-bound Watford sealed Solskjaer’s fate, paving the way for Ralf Rangnick to take charge.
    It’s reckoned in the weeks and months that followed, Solskjaer was approached by several clubs from across Europe.
    And one of those was a Premier League side looking to secure its top flight status.
    Despite the barren run at the end of his United managerial career, Solskjaer still walked away with a fairly impressive record.
    Of 168 games, he won 92 and lost 41, with the remaining 35 draws.
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    Solskjaer is the only United boss post-Sir Alex Ferguson to secure consecutive top four finishes.
    And he narrowly missed out on a trophy after losing the 2021 Europa League final to Villarreal on penalties. More

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    Liverpool missed out on signing Man Utd star Cristiano Ronaldo just a week before move after ‘fee trebled’ overnight

    LIVERPOOL failed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo only a week before he joined Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson gazumped his rivals, according to Phil Thompson.The then-Reds assistant boss has revealed that his team were one of many English clubs interested in the Portuguese forward.
    Ronaldo went on to become a mega star at Old TraffordCredit: PA:Press Association
    Ronaldo had already declared that a move to Anfield was “a dream” with agents Paul Stretford, Jorge Mendes and Tony Henry negotiating his exit from Sporting CP.
    In recalling the 2003 transfer to The Athletic, Thompson states that a £4million fee was required.
    He noted: “I asked what kind of salary he would want and they said it was £1 million per year after tax. That was a lot for an 18-year-old kid but they said that was negotiable.
    “It was a Sunday and I explained to them that I needed to go back to Liverpool and speak to Gerard Houllier and see what we could do. I fed all the information back to Gerard, who said he would speak to [chief executive] Rick Parry.
    “Lo and behold, the following week I’m at Melwood when the yellow ticker on Sky Sports News says: Manchester United sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting for £12.2m.
    “I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
    As Thompson says, United had not paid the £4m fee earlier touted and he was left shocked at how the figure changed overnight.
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    The former defender continued: “Tony told me that when he’d got off the plane on the Monday he had got a call to say he was off the deal. It was down to Stretford and Mendes instead.
    “It was astonishing that the fee trebled.
    “He was clearly a big talent but no one could have predicted back then how great he was going to be.”
    Ronaldo went on to win a treble of Premier League titles in Manchester with 118 goals in almost 300 appearances in his first spell with the club.
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    Gary Neville reveals regret over ignoring Ferguson advice and Simeone torturing him with tactics during Valencia spell

    GARY NEVILLE admits he regrets not heeding Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice during his ill-fated spell as Valencia manager.Neville infamously took charge of the Spanish club during the 2015-16 season.
    Gary Neville admits he regrets not heeding Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice during his time at ValenciaCredit: Getty Images
    But he lasted just 28 games after picking up only ten wins before being sacked.
    Neville’s time at the Mestalla is now looked back on as a prime example of bad management.
    And Neville himself admits he should have paid closer attention to advice given by former Man Utd boss Fergie.
    Reflecting on his Valencia spell last year, Neville told Sky Sports: “Early on it was clear that some players were unhappy.
    “I should have made big decisions on players that weren’t committed to the club at that point.
    “I remember speaking to Sir Alex early on and his advice was: ‘Just get rid of them and protect yourself. Only have people in the dressing room that are facing the same direction as you.’
    “But I didn’t listen. I tried talking some players round to staying until the end of the season. But they weren’t happy.
    “I ignored Sir Alex’s advice.”
    Neville also revealed how out of depth he felt against Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone, saying: “I felt like he was strangling me gently throughout the game.
    “I felt like he put his hands around my neck and thought ‘I’ll just toy with you a little bit.’
    “He was almost torturing me, football-wise, over 90 minutes.
    “At the end of the game I went to shake his hand and he just stormed off past me down the tunnel.
    “To me, you always shake your fellow manager’s hand out of respect, so I thought, ‘you are one horrible so-and-so.’
    “I admired that in his teams when I’d watch them, I’ve admired it since.
    “His team represent him. His bench was all over the place during the match, they’re all screaming and shouting.
    “I don’t know whether he’s like that anyway or whether he just thought, ‘I think I need to leave one on you here. You need a lesson.’” More

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    Chelsea stars Reece and Lauren James become the first brother and sister pair to play for England and are ‘living dream’

    IN the case of the James clan, it’s very much about keeping it in the family.This weekend, Lauren James earned her first cap for England – coming as a substitute against Austria as Sarina Wiegman’s European Champions booked their place at the World Cup with a 2-0 win.
    Chelsea stars Reece and Lauren James are the first brother and sister to play for EnglandCredit: EPA
    Reece and Lauren James have become professional footballers with the help of dad NigelCredit: Instagram / @rjames
    James made her debut for the Three Lions against Austria over the weekend
    In doing so, she joined her famous brother Reece in becoming a full England international. They are now the first brother and sister to play for the Three Lions, in what is a remarkable achievement.
    While Reece has just signed a new five-year deal with the Blues

    It’s astounding that two talented footballers of the men’s and women’s game are even playing professionally, not to mention representing their country.
    But the London-born pair are living the dream. Part of their success is due to their incredible father, Nigel.
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    A motorbike accident halted his promising career, after spells at Luton Town and Southampton.
    Nigel found his true calling through mentoring youngsters and later set up Nigel James Elite Coaching programme.
    It’s testament to him, his son and his daughter would eventually become pros.
    Reece, 22, and Lauren, 20, grew up in London with football an ongoing backdrop in their lives.
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    As well as a father with footballing aspirations, their elder brother Joshua was on the books of Fulham and Reading. Their mother Emma worked admirably for the NHS.
    If the three siblings weren’t kicking a ball against a wall, they would be down the park honing their skills.
    Often, their dad who would pass on his knowledge and put the three through training drills and exercises.
    Lauren and Reece have always shared a tight bond together
    The siblings grew up in London with football as their backdrop
    Reece and Lauren enjoy a kickabout togetherCredit: Instagram @laurennjjames
    Dad Nigel coached Reece, Lauren and their brother Joshua in the local park
    “We grew up as a three,” Reece of Chelsea proudly told the Blues official website.
    “Obviously, Josh learned from my dad and then it just passed its way down. I started playing because my brother played, and my sister played because I played.
    “We all used to play every day together at the park and over time we all gradually got better. There was a field behind my house, with two pitches, and every day I’d be playing football, either in the field or in the street.”
    Lauren, who joined her brother at Chelsea this summer, echoes the sentiment that the beautiful game dominated their lives.
    “All I ever knew was football, football and football,” she told The Telegraph.
    “My brothers got me into football. Whether it was when Josh was at Fulham or when Reece was at the Chelsea academy, I was there kicking the ball against the fence.
    “I’ve always had a football and it has just taken me to where I am now.”
    Reece was an early bloomer when it came to his footballing talent.
    By the age of six he joined Chelsea’s impressive development academy, where he progressed through the ranks.
    James joined Chelsea’s youth set-up aged six
    James progressed through Chelsea’s youth teams and won a FA Youth CupCredit: Getty – Contributor
    However, it took him some time to find his best position. He started off as a striker, moved into midfield and then had to learn the art of defending.
    Once he cemented the right-back as his own, there was no stopping him. In the 2017-18 season, he appeared for England at U18, U19 and U20 level.
    A loan at Wigan Athletic the following campaign saw Reece named as their Player of the Year.
    Once he made his debut against Grimsby in the EFL Cup in 2019, scoring one and assisting two, he could no longer be ignored for a first team spot.
    Lauren might be slightly younger than Reece, but her achievements are just as impressive.
    At 13 she joined Arsenal, and because of her experience with playing with her brothers was encouraged to train with the boys’ team.
    Two years later, the prolific forward made her first team debut for the Gunners women’s team – beating Reece to the punch there.
    She created history in the process becoming the youngest player in Arsenal’s history male or female to make their bow for the club.
    In 2017, she moved to the newly reformed Manchester United women’s team to take on a new challenge in a city she never knew.
    In 2017, Lauren James joined Manchester United’s newly formed women’s teamCredit: Getty
    Since joining the Red Devils, James has thrived scoring 27 goals in 54 gamesCredit: Getty
    But that didn’t deter the brave teen, who scored 14 goals in 18 league games as the Red Devils won promotion from the Championship at the first time of asking to the Women’s Super League.
    This summer, Lauren joined Reece at Chelsea – where she has scored once in her five games so far this campaign.
    As is a sad indictment of our times, both Reece and Lauren have been targeted with online racist abuse.
    They are united in their efforts to encourage social media companies to do more with their platforms in stopping racism.
    “When we both get messages like that, we turn to each other and discuss it,” Reece said.
    “I think everyone agrees and knows that what’s happening with social media and racism is wrong. Everyone says they want to change, but not many things are changing.”
    Although they share a competitive nature on the pitch, Reece and Lauren only have a mutual respect for each other’s achievements.
    But Lauren knew she had to emulate her brother by following his footsteps into the England squad.
    “We are not usually competitive,” she revealed.
    “When he got his senior England call-up, it was like, “Right, he got his, I’ve got to get mine now. That’s probably the only time and I laugh about it now.”
    Reece earned his first cap against Wales last October, while a month later Lauren received a senior national team call-up as part of a 29-player training camp at St George’s Park.
    Despite their careers mirroring one another, Reece is adamant they can’t be compared.
    Reece James has become a regular in the England squad since his first call-up last OctoberCredit: Marc Aspland – The Times
    His sister Lauren James celebrated an England call-up last November when she was included in a 29-man squadCredit: Getty
    “I wouldn’t say there’s competition,” he said.
    “You know, she is my sister. Our games are the same, our professions are the same, but it’s still different. I play men’s football when she plays women’s football, you can’t compare them.”
    No. But you can applaud their success. They are, after all, living the dream. More