Reece James has revealed he initially joined Chelsea as a striker during his early years, admitting he never wanted to be a right-back.
James, 21, has emerged as one of Chelsea and England’s most promising No. 2s, recently starring at right wing-back in the European champion’s 2-0 win over London rivals Arsenal, in which he scored and assisted.
The seven-capped England international featured 47 times last season as the Blues sneaked into the Premier League top four and took home the Champions League, with James playing the full 90 minutes in the Porto showpiece against Manchester City.
His form earned him a position in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2020 despite competition from Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, and not to mentioned the still uncapped Aaron Wan-Bissaka, while he recently received a call-up for next month’s World Cup Qualifiers.
With Walker and Trippier both now into their 30s, Southgate will have few anxieties about those two eventually calling time on their international careers, as James (21), Trent Alexander-Arnold (22) and Wan-Bissaka (23) offer long-term sustainability in the position.
However, his options may have been slightly restricted had James followed through on his initial scepticism about playing at right-back, revealing he “hated” the position when he was first asked to play there, instead wanting to progress as a striker in the Chelsea academy.
“When I first arrived at Chelsea, I was a striker but then moved to midfield for a couple of seasons,” James told the club’s official website.
“Then, when I was about 15, I found myself playing right-back because there were better players in midfield. I hated it for maybe two or three years and never wanted to play there!
“But one day it just clicked and I started loving it. I think the penny just dropped that I wouldn’t be playing midfield anymore and this was my new position.
“[Then] I signed my first professional contract when I was 17. I wanted to be a professional ever since I was a young boy here. I was over the moon.”