In 2021, the 18-year-old made her senior debut in the Womens Super League, won three trophies and experienced a Womens Champions League final
As Paula Fox, mother of Jorja, the Chelsea defender who signed her first professional contract last summer, recalls her daughter’s first trial with the Blues, she says: “I can remember it, because we felt wed been bad parents.”
It was the summer of 2012, Jorja was eight years old and it was her father, Dave, who took her along.
“They went the first day, came back and he was like, Oh my gosh, what did I just do to her? Everyone was really good,” Paula tells GOAL.
“He felt like she was just a rabbit in headlights, and I remember taking her to the shops and buying her a treat because I felt so bad that wed put her through it.”
As it transpired, things had gone better than her parents thought. Chelsea liked what they saw and recalled Fox for another trial. She has not looked back since.
Working her way through the youth ranks, the defender made her senior debut in the Womens Super League in January 2021, and was part of the squad that won the treble that season, while also reaching the Womens Champions League final.
“Dave knows about football and he always did say she was always technically so good, she just wasnt particularly confident. [Chelsea] obviously saw that,” Paula adds.
It might seem like a relatively straight-forward rise for the teenager, a childhood Tottenham fan who idolised Gareth Bale as well as Hannah Blundell, the former Chelsea full-back who rose through the Blues’ ranks herself before ending an 11-year spell at the club last summer.
But it has been anything but.
Fox’s story is one of perseverance and hard work. As with all young footballers, social events had to fall down the pecking order. A huge family holiday sticks out in particular as being “really hard” to miss out on.
“But there were no second thoughts about it,” she tells GOAL. “It was always: Im going to go to the England camp. I cant miss the opportunity.”
Getting into that national team set-up was not easy, either. Naturally a quieter child, ‘showcase’ events, like trials, were not so well-suited to her.
She was among the minority in her Chelsea team when players were first selected for regional development camps, overlooked for an opportunity that would then feed into England.
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“That was the first real disappointment,” Paula remembers. “The coaches were talking and it was basically put down to Jorjas personality.”
When she did get called up, homesickness was another obstacle that needed to be overcome, and Fox’s mental toughness would benefit massively as she did so.
That tough resolve is a common theme. Paula reels off numerous things that Fox has mastered over the years – freestyle tricks in the garden as a kid, juggling and the Rubik’s cube in lockdown – and it is clear that she is someone that does not give up on anything, no matter how big or small.
That attitude has helped her break into a star-studded Chelsea squad. An attack-minded full-back with a great work ethic, she is now getting regular first-team experience on loan at Charlton in the Championship, while returning to her parent club once a week, where she is learning from some of the world’s best.
“The best thing about playing against [the Chelsea stars] is you know you cant really get any better than them,” Fox says. “You know youre pushing yourself to the limit.
“Sam Kerr was like a mum to me last year, which was really helpful. Shes always trying to make jokes. I love that about her. I think it helped me settle a lot into the team last season.
“Pernille [Harder] and especially Magda [Eriksson], as well. I felt like they were always making sure Im okay, always asking how I am and stuff like that. It was a nice balance.”
“She really, really looks up to Magda. I think shes been a huge influence on her,” Paula adds, believing she has “learned” a lot about being level-headed from the Blues skipper.
“She often talks about trying to be a mixture of the players. I think thats hopefully going to really help, because she can see the parts of the players that she feels like she wants to be like. More than just the football, I think there are some amazing women role models there that she now kind of wants to emulate.”
A player who already has that calmness and good decision-making about her – in both her play and off the pitch – Fox appears to have the perfect balance right now for her development.
The Womens Under-19 European Championship this summer could be another huge experience in her young, but eventful, career to date.
“I think for this season, I just want to continue to focus on my personal development in the Championship and get myself to a point next season where I can be in contention at Chelsea for pre-season and get myself at a level where I can compete in the WSL,” she says.
“Next year, Id love to be playing in the WSL, whether thats at Chelsea or on loan at another club.
“Long-term, I want to be a Chelsea player and thats all Ive ever wanted to be.”