Chelsea starlet Reece James has explained how first-team football is always available to youngsters at the club, providing they are good enough.
The 19-year-old is yet to register a senior appearance for the Blues but looks set to play an important role this season after the club rejected multiple offers from Premier League sides this summer.
Is James the latest academy star in west London? Five things to know…
- James spent 2018/19 on loan with Wigan Athletic, featuring 46 times across all competitions.
- He clinched the players’ and fans’ Player of the Year awards.
- He was also named in the Championship team of the season.
- He has previously captained Chelsea’s U18s team to back-to-back Premier League and FA Youth Cup trophies.
- James is now hoping he can stake a claim in the first-team fold this season.
He rose to prominence last season during a year-long loan spell with Wigan Athletic, where his defensive showings saw him earn the Latics’ ‘Player of the Year’ accolade.
And his time in the Stamford Bridge spotlight could come sooner rather than later after the horror performance of Cesar Azpilicueta in Chelsea’s 4-0 collapse against Manchester United prompted Frank Lampard to hint at a “big” role for James this campaign, something the youngster believes is possible at a club like Chelsea.
He told the Independent: “It’s great to have people coming through the academy on a similar journey to me.
“I’ve known Callum [Hudson-Odoi] for over 10 years and seen him play for the club and realise his dream.
“At the start of this season, you could argue he wasn’t getting as much game time as he wanted, but he showed that if you’re good enough, the pathway is always there.
“I never thought it would be too hard to break into the first-team.
“Now I’ve just got to hope I’ll get my chance and, when I do, I’ll do everything to take it and earn that recognition.”
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“Frank Lampard is a club legend”
James will certainly be hopeful of featuring heavily this season with Chelsea currently under a transfer embargo, while Lampard has made no secret about his desire to provide academy products a platform to shine.
The former England international has already name-checked James as a youngster who could make the step, which would be a “dream” come true for the talented teenager.
He added: “I would always prefer to play than sit around. If I’m not, I’m not going to be happy, but there are certain situations where you have to be patient.
“Frank Lampard is a club legend; he’s someone I’ve always looked up to.
“If a manager believes in youth and believes in you then, eventually, you know the chance will come.
“Ever since I’ve been at Chelsea, my dream has been to become a first-team player.”