Engulfed by the beautiful game from a young age, Reading FC Ladies’ Lauren Bruton is a woman on a mission as she seeks to break into England’s senior squad following the Lionesses incredible 2015 FIFA World Cup campaign.
The 22-year-old forward has already achieved unprecedented success after joining Arsenal Ladies’ Centre of Excellence at just 15-years-old, lifting the FA Women’s Cup four times and the Women’s Premier League three times during her spell at Meadow Park.
But having represented her country from Under-17 level, all the way through to the Under-23s; the Royals’ midfield maestro is hungry for more success as she bids to gatecrash Mark Sampson’s senior squad during an impressive campaign in the Women’s Super League second division.
Spurred on by Steph Houghton’s side’s incredible run at the World Cup finals in Canada this summer, where England defeated world number ones Germany to take home the bronze medal, Bruton is eager to prove her worth on the ultimate stage.
Bruton talked to Shoot EXCLUSIVELY about her footballing childhood, Reading’s WSL2 title bid, the Lionesses World Cup heroics and her own international ambition.
Born in Luton, you began playing for your local side (Luton Town Ladies) from just eight years-old. What got you into football from such a young age?
“I started playing at school, just with the boys in the playground, before I joined the [school] team. I never really used to be into hanging around with the girls, I just grew up playing with the boys and playing football. I used to be really sporty when I was younger, so I used to play every single sport I could at school. Then one of my friends asked me to join their girl’s side, so I got into football from there.”
You scored over 200 goals for your hometown club before sealing a move to Women’s Super League giants Arsenal when you were 15. What was it like signing for England’s most successful club? Was it a dream come true?
“Yeah it was, especially when I used to go and watch them when I was a little kid as I am an Arsenal supporter. So it was good for me and for my family as well. At that point, it was the biggest club in the country and that is where I wanted to play my football. So I was really chuffed to get in.”
During your six-year stay at Meadow Park, you won numerous major trophies with the Gunners. Did you ever imagine achieving so much at such a young age with Arsenal?
“Not really. Obviously I was on the bench for a lot of that, just because I was so young. I remember my first cap for the first-team was when I was 15-years-old in the League Cup final, I was very young. I was learning how to play at a top level against adults at that age, which is totally different from playing Centre of Excellence football, all the way up to senior football, which was a totally different experience. But being able to experience all of that; being on the bench and coming on in the Champions League, all of those competitions helped me grow as a player. So it was really good to achieve that at such a young age.”
Steph Houghton’s Lionesses did remarkably well at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer, taking home the bronze medal. What did you make of their impressive campaign?
“It was brilliant. It was really great for me to watch as an English woman, I was really chuffed for the girls. I know Fran [Kirby], who was part of Reading Football Club, I was just chuffed to watch her get her chance with the seniors. But it just shows how English football has really improved over the last five to ten years and that we have really got ourselves into a place where we should be proud of what we achieved at the World Cup and the way we played against some of the best teams in the world. It was really good to watch.”
One of England’s brightest young stars is Fran Kirby, who recently left Reading for Chelsea for a British record transfer fee. She netted 24 goals last season in the Women’s Super League 2, what was it like playing alongside her? How do you think she will fare at Chelsea?
“She will do fantastic at Chelsea. I think it will really push her as a player. Just playing at the highest level always improves you personally. Playing with top quality players like Gemma Davison and Eniola Aluko, being able to train every day and play under a top coach like Emma Hayes will be beneficial for her as a footballer and as a person. Obviously I played with a lot of top quality players whilst I was at Arsenal, but Fran was one of the players that I really thought was something different, something special. Her technical ability is unbelievable for somebody of her age. She has confidence in herself and she is not afraid of anyone that she comes up against. You could see that at the World Cup when she came on. When she plays, she doesn’t fear anyone and that is why she will be one of the best players in England in the future.”
Following England’s extraordinary World Cup campaign, the attendances across the Women’s Super League format soared once the domestic season got back underway. What do you think the Women’s game needs to do in order to maintain and develop the sport’s attendances, popularity and media coverage?
“I think, at the moment, it is doing the right things. It is getting out there on social media websites, it is being promoted now on TV which is always something that is going to improve the sport massively as people are able to watch it and they might think that they will want to go watch games live. Again; pushing it towards the younger generation is probably what they have been doing, and what they should keep on doing, just because that is where they really need to hit home. They will get more people, more girls to push on and play the sport and then hopefully we will get bigger crowds. As we have seen, the World Cup has brought massive crowds. I think the average went up massively from the first game back compared to the first-half of the season. So they are obviously doing something right, I just think they need to carry on and it will keep growing.”
Reading are currently second in the WSL2 after 10 games, just three points behind Doncaster Rovers Belles. Do you think you can go all the way during the latter stages of the 2015 season and be crowned champions come October?
“We are very confident. As a group, we are training really well at the moment. Obviously the last five games we have played really well and got the results, we got three points out of every single game. So we are really confident in ourselves at the moment and that means we feel like we can beat any team that we come up against, whether it is Aston Villa or Doncaster. Beating Doncaster 3-0 at their place raised massive confidence anyway, so I believe that we are strong candidates to get promoted and hopefully we can push on and win the league. But I know it is not going to be easy because we still have a long way to go. We have got a lot of tough games; we’ve got Everton away, which will not be easy. We have got Doncaster at home and obviously Aston Villa, they shouldn’t be taken for granted either. I’m very confident we should get promoted but obviously we need to work hard in every game.”
You have managed to score four goals in 10 appearances for the Royals so far this season, including a crucial brace in the 3-0 victory over title rivals Doncaster back in May. What is your personal goal heading into the latter stages of the season?
“Personally; it would be just to try and play as well as I can for the team and get as many goals as I can. At the moment; we are the highest scoring team in the league and that shows that our attack is immense in every game. If we are scoring as many as we can then it is hard to lose games, and that is what we are doing at the moment. We are scoring so many, that’s how we are winning games. To get promoted is all I want. That’s my main goal.”
You have represented England at Under-17, Under-19 and Under-23 level, including a debut goal against Greece for the Under-17s. What is it like to play for your country?
“It is a really proud moment. I can remember my first cap; I was so young it was just surreal. It was in Estonia, I was really young and I didn’t know what was going on. But it is a really proud moment and you don’t get a better feeling playing for your country. That is where I wanted to go with my football. To play internationally in different countries is the best thing you can do. I have come through the ranks, so hopefully now I can push on and get into the seniors.”
You were invited to train with the England senior team, although you have yet to receive your first full international cap. Is that the ultimate dream, to represent your country on the international stage?
“Of course. Especially watching them at the World Cup, it makes me want it so much more. Seeing how well they done, the hype around them and how many people have got behind them, it is a really good sign for English football – of course I want to be a part of that. So besides club football, that’s my main goal. Getting into the women’s senior team would be a huge achievement for me.”