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James Lawrence Tells Wales To Be Merciless To Old Pal Christian Eriksen

James Lawrence may not be a household name in his adopted country, Wales, but he is certainly someone well known to Danish danger man Christian Eriksen.

For as well as rubbing shoulders with the likes of Harry Kane and Jack Wilshire in the junior ranks at Arsenal, the 26-year-old Anderlecht defender played with Eriksen in the Ajax youth team in Holland.

Lawrence was given a big surprise when manager Ryan Giggs called him up into the Wales squad last week for the Nations League clash against the Danes. He was shocked again when Eriksen sent him a message saying, “See you on Friday!”

“I played with Christian Eriksen in the youth team at Ajax. We were quite close friends at the time, so when I got the call up for Wales he said ‘See you Friday!’” revealed Lawrence.

“That was great, it was good fun to hear from him. He’s a huge player for them, but obviously no mercy to him this time.

“He was always a quality player, even as a youth player at Ajax. Everyone knew from the moment he came in he was going to do big things – he’s their star guy and he’s the one we have got to eliminate.

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The pair lived across the road from each other in Amsterdam and Eriksen was a regular visitor to the Lawrence family home, where chilli con carne was on the menu and FIFA was on the console.

“He was looking for a place in Amsterdam and he was very interested in the area in which I was living. I gave him a few tips and the contact details and he actually came to live across the road from me.

“He was living alone at the time and we met up for dinner quite a lot and played games of FIFA. Chilli con carne was his favourite meal and my dad [Steve] used to make it for him.”

With Chris Mepham ruled out with injury, Lawrence could be closer than he thinks to getting a game either on Friday night or in next week’s friendly in Albania. Not bad for someone who hadn’t stepped foot in Wales before he was called-up.

“One of my grandmothers is half Welsh and the other one is fully Welsh. The grandmother who was half Welsh spent a lot of time in India and Germany during the war, because my grandfather was a soldier,” explained Lawrence.

“The other one has lived for most of her life in Henley-on-Thames, so I can’t say I’ve been to Wales that much. This is the first time I’ve been.

“I knew Wales were looking at me and that a call up was in the works and a possibility. I knew I was in the pre-selection, but I was honestly quite surprised to be picked so soon in the full squad.

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“I’ve had a good start to the season, but I didn’t expect to be called-up so soon. That shows what sort of manager Ryan Giggs is in that he is prepared to take risks on some unknown players.

“They’ve had a good look at me and decided I am good enough. I think that at this stage of my career, and at the level I am playing, I am.”

After completing a double-double of league and cup wins in Slovakia, Lawrence got a move to Belgian giants Anderlecht this season and has fitted in well. It may have taken him some time to reach the big time, but now he’s there he is ready to make the most of it.

“I’m getting on a bit now. I’m 26 and I’ve had quite a road, quite a journey, but I couldn’t be happier at the timing,” he said.

“I’ve developed myself to a level where I think it’s possible now. Before, I was still searching for myself in Europe.

“I was in Slovakia, but I’ve now moved to a top quality club, I’m playing at a high level, playing regularly and now is a really good time. With my high-profile move a lot of interest came and Wales sent scouts to the games this season and were obviously happy with what they saw.

After those four years at Slovakian club AC Trencin, the move to Belgium in August, has accelerated his progress as well as his impact on the Wales team management.

“I think they were aware of me when I was playing in Slovakia, although that isn’t a place that is scouted that often at a high level. With my high profile move a lot more interest came. Scouts were sent to games I’ve been playing in this season and they’ve been happy with what they’ve seen.”


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