Wales international Angharad “Haz” James has played for multiple club teams in her young career, including Everton, Arsenal, Yeovil Town, Notts County Ladies, and Bristol Academy. She’s now one of the newest players to join the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage. James joined Courage Country virtually Wednesday afternoon to answer the 2021 edition of the Starting XI Questions.
2021 Starting XI Questions: Angharad James
During quarantine what’s been your biggest struggle in training and fitness?
I was lucky I was with my partner Amy, throughout COVID. We’re both footballers so it was you know it made it a lot easier for us that we had each other to be able to get through the sessions. So, for me, the biggest struggle was probably the facilities use that we got. Obviously, the gyms and pitches were shut. So it was park pitches that you have to your sessions on. But, for me, it wasn’t a big issue. It was probably mentally preparing to get through that.
At that time we didn’t know whether the season back in England was going to go ahead. So you kept training each day to think, “Okay next week, you could have a game.” That would get postponed. So, then you start your load in again and it just kept going on and on, for weeks, which was probably the hardest part.
But, for me, it was probably not seeing my family that was the biggest thing. On off days you just like to meet up with your family and friends to be able to have that switch-off moment that time to yourself with your family where you can talk about everything but football, so not being able to see them was really difficult because that day or two days in the week I really pride myself on having family time so that was very difficult. I’d probably say that was the hardest thing.
What’s been one silver lining for you during COVID?
I think for me it’s the appreciation of everyone whose work and what they’re doing. Back in England, the NHS was under such scrutiny at that they were so busy with all their work, and the appreciation of what they actually do appreciation of family.
I probably didn’t ring grandparents as much as I should have probably, didn’t keep in touch as much as I should sometimes for distant family. You heard of so many people who lost their lives here in this pandemic that for me personally, I was very fortunate that I didn’t know anyone who went through that. So it’s just the realization of you’ve got everything around you — the people and that’s the most important thing you can take away. As long as you’ve got your family and your people around you that you need. It will get you through.
It was exactly that got me through the whole year and a half. That was very difficult for most people, but the work that some of the key workers did throughout the pandemic, I can’t praise them enough because of the stories that you see in the news and stuff that they’ve been through — mental health coming out of it, as well as a big thing. I just feel very fortunate that we have such good key workers around us and I’ve got family to get us through everything.
What’s one thing you’ve learned since becoming part of the Courage?
I’ve learned quite a bit. I don’t know. That’s quite a difficult question. On the pitch, I would say just to keep working — the work rate that everyone has to produce every training session, every game is something that I’ve not experienced anywhere else — the intensity that we have to play at, and that is expected from every player.
I’ve been at teams previously where one or two might get away with not executing the work rate that everyone else does. Here, it doesn’t work like that. If you’re the 11th player who’s not working hard, you’ll be off. It’s so different — the work rate and the amount of running that everyone does is pretty crazy, and it’s something that I’m having to get used to.
I work hard, but probably not at the intensity that is expected here. I’m in a different stage to people so I’ve been trying to keep that in the back of my head whilst getting frustrated with myself at times, the heat is just a bit too much. the intensity is a bit too quick at times because I’m still adapting to different parts of the game, but I’m doing my best to try and get rid of that as quickly as possible. In the next few weeks, I should be really up and running.
Who is your go-to on the team for advice, questions, and just venting?
Yeah, it’s probably anything, especially away from the fields, Hailie Mace. I’m always texting her asking silly questions, sometimes, but everything just works, a little bit differently here to England. We get into practice, about an hour early, but everyone is you know stretching and doing the bit, and it’s just the small little details that I’m just trying to get used to. So she’s probably my go-to.
On the pitch, I’ll ask questions to anyone. I’m trying to help myself, help the team the best I can. So the more questions I ask, the earlier I ask them, the better. The quicker I’ll settle in. I’m probably annoying some people where I’ve got about 10 different questions on the field that I’m asking every day, but I just want to learn and keep learning. The style of play is a lot different. I played a box at Reading, but the principles are a little bit different here to what was expected in England so it’s getting out of habits from my previous club — becoming what I need to become here for the team so yeah I’m always learning and asking questions so hopefully, that’s a good thing.
What’s been the biggest “aha” moment in your professional career so far?
I think, for me, the one thing that sticks out, I was at Notts County, a club that folded and I’d recently signed. I was only there for about three months. We folded on a Friday. We were due to start up our first game of that season on the Sunday. So over the weekend, I’d lost my job, where I was living. Everything just went and it was kind of the moment where I realized, I can go one way or the other here. There were about 22 or 23 of us fighting for places in teams, but teams had already had have this squad because they were about to start the season, so there weren’t many places.
That was a moment where I dropped down a league. I went to play at a lower level, and I was welcomed by the club. They were great for me. They were what I needed at the time. To be able to continue to play for international football, I needed to be playing games and it was a moment where I realized it’s not safe. You’re never safe, and you can never underestimate what might happen next week or next month.
It’s just that realization that you know you always have to have something to fall back on. I think that happened and I was glad to have my degree. I was glad to have my coaching badges, just in case I didn’t get an opportunity that I needed to have these in place to be able to fall back on. Fortunately, for me it drove me, even more, to be successful and to try and reach the top, which I can say four, five, six years later, you know there’s no better club for me than where I’m at now.
I just think it everything I believe everything happens for a reason, and I think that gave me the drive that I needed to really kick on and put everything into football and just try and reach the top I’ve wanted to be all my career.
What’s been the biggest adjustment training and playing for the Courage?
The heat — that’s probably the biggest part. When I first came in, my first session, I spoke to Paul, and Paul said, “Look. You’ll be fine. It’ll just be the heat. That’s probably the biggest part.” At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. I didn’t realize it was as hot as it was, and knew it was going to be hot, and I thought, “Oh lovely. I want to play in sunny weather. It’ll be great.” Then I got here, and it was too hot. It’s gone from one extreme where it’s raining every day in England and you think all you want is then. Then to come into the heat you’re thinking, “Take me back to the rain.”
Who was your role model in the soccer world growing up?
For me, it was difficult because when I was growing up, I never watched women’s football. I didn’t really have the resources to watch, and didn’t realize, you could be a professional female footballer. I always wanted to make it, but in my head, it was in a men’s team as weird as that sounds because I didn’t see professional football. We’re not, as you know, in the US here, you’re so far advanced that for 15 to 20 years ago, I didn’t have that as a role model.
So it was probably a men’s footballer up until the point where I moved to Arsenal and, whilst I was at Arsenal, I remember my first session and we integrated with the first team, so I turned up and there was this mad woman that was playing for Arsenal. I remember coming back, and my dad was there. He was watching and I didn’t know who she was. I didn’t know any of the players’ names which is so bad and unheard of now, but I said that you know she had a Welsh accent. Then I said, “you know there’s a player in the middle of the field, she was really good. She was crazy.” She’d give the ball away and then chase after you. If someone was to meg her, she would literally chase after you to make sure.
She was my national team manager — my last manager, Jayne Ludlow and she was probably one where when I moved to London, she was originally from Barry which is near Cardiff, and it was, “OK, so people can make it from Wales and be a professional athlete and a professional footballer and do it for a living.”
I didn’t realize that until I had to move there. So she was a big one for me, and she was a center midfielder — the same as me. She’s someone I looked up to and learned a lot from and fast forward 10 years, she was then a national team manager, is pretty cool, to say the least. She was probably the first female footballer that I looked up to and thought, “You know, you can be from little Wales and you can still make it.” She’s one of the best players to have put on the Arsenal jersey, up till this date so she’s definitely someone that I looked up to and still do now. She’s doing great in a coaching role.
What’s the one essential possession that goes with you wherever you live?
Other than my phone, which is a given, I love to take my photos and stuff with me and look back through them. I was given a Polaroid camera a few years ago, and I love to just take it everywhere, taking snaps and they come out instantly so you can have a little folder that I put them all in. When you have your moments, and you do have your moments where you’re feeling a bit down — you’re feeling a bit homesick, and I definitely had them in the first week.
I struggled when I had my vaccine – I was ill from it, and you know, come into a new place, a new team. I hadn’t met my teammates at that time, and it was a bit lonely, so it was good to just have that possession with me to be able to you know look through when I know that these times are coming again. It’s just part of the process and there’s something that you know it’s so small, but they actually go a long way of you know just looking at every now and again just to reminisce about good times your family, your friends, and stuff.
What sport would you play if soccer wasn’t an option?
I’m from Wales, so I’d have to say rugby. Rugby is a sport in Wales and I did used to play. I was playing rugby before I played football and I got to the age of 12. I was playing with the boys and you couldn’t play rugby anymore with the boys so, then I kind of turned to football and made sure that I concentrated more on the football. But my dad was a rugby coach so he got me throwing ball, kicking balls before I could probably even walk.
Now looking at me — the size of me, and you know I just think I’m probably a bit too small to be a really good rugby player, but that would probably be the sport that I would have to choose, especially being from Wales.
What have you binged on lately?
Not a lot. I’ve been watching a lot of the Euros, which is probably taking up most of my free time and there are a few shows on Netflix that I’m hoping I can watch over the next few weeks. I’ve been watching Motherland, which is I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. I think it’s on BBC. I’m not sure. Its sense of humor is very similar to mine, so I’ve been bingeing that a little bit in between the Euros, and you know just want I want a little bit of a laugh it’s been really good, but mainly the Euros because they’ve been they were on two or three times a day.
You could sit there for six or seven hours and just the time’s gone because you’ve been watching one game after another, and so yeah so the England games on tonight, which is supporting anyone that plays in London, unfortunately.
Question from Merritt Mathias: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen since being in America?
I haven’t seen it, but the weirdest thing that I’ve probably experienced is the number of bugs and the amount of wildlife. So it was in Orlando the other day, and when we played the game stay there for a few days, and there was a little pond. When I’m with Amy, we’ve always walked past it and, as I was leaving Amy got an email, and it said that an alligator had been spotted in that little pond. We read the email, and I was a bit like, “what? An alligator is just there?”
Bear in mind it’s just across from your apartment and I was thinking this doesn’t happen in England at all. You don’t have to worry about these creatures and animals. There was a lizard just outside my doo a mini one when I first got here and I thought, “Okay, this, this is just a completely different place and so probably get the creatures, the bugs there’s a lot more of them about because of the heat probably more so than in England.”
2021 Starting XI Questions
Check out the growing number of 2021 and previous seasons’ Starting XI Questions.
Look for more articles on Haz James and the entire North Carolina Courage squad throughout the 2021 season here on Courage Country.