Football News

Reece James starts vs Grimsby: Chelsea’s versatile youngster finally steps into his “big role”

By CJ Smith

Published: 18:52, 25 September 2019

Reece James is set to finally make his senior Chelsea debut against Grimsby Town on Wednesday night.

The 19-year-old defender’s name has been on the lips of Chelsea fans for some time now, especially since mopping up a host of individual awards while on loan at Wigan Athletic last season.

Who is Reece James? Five key facts…

  • Position: Right-back
  • DoB: 08/12/99
  • Nationality: English
  • Senior apps/goals: 46/3 (for Wigan)
  • Career path: Chelsea, Wigan (loan)

James picked up the club’s Player of the Year and Player’s Player of the Year awards, as well as winning the Goal of the Season award for his strike against Bristol City.

Furthermore, the defender was named in the 2018/19 Championship Team of the Year and despite being sidelined by ankle surgery during the summer, Frank Lampard insisted James has a “big role” to play for Chelsea following their 4-0 defeat to Manchester United in August.

Chelsea fans were quick to voice their approval at Lampard’s comments and will no doubt be excited to see James finally pull on the blue jersey against Grimsby.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Chelsea’s League Cup clash, Lampard revealed his plans for James as well as fellow starlet, Callum Hudson-Odoi. An indeed, both player are in the starting line-up.

“[Hudson-Odoi and James will] be involved on Wednesday night, they’ll be involved,” he said.

“We certainly need to look at players who haven’t been playing as much against Grimsby. We’ll pay them due respect, but it certainly is minutes for certain players who haven’t been there. Callum is on the road to recovery. It was a long injury so he needs game time.

“And Reece, similarly, so yeah there’ll be some different changes but I expect the same level of performance. And what I don’t want to lose is the feeling of tonight [against Liverpool], the feeling of how we can be and it’s important we keep that.”

Could James solve Lampard’s defensive issues?

Despite some vibrant attacking play under Lampard, Chelsea have struggled to tighten up a leaky backline since the return of their club legend.

Spanish right-back and club captain Cesar Azpilicueta has come in for particular criticism from sections of Chelsea’s support, while others have even suggested Lampard revert back to the back-three which was so successful under Antonio Conte.

Azpilicueta thrived in that system and having James available to slot in at wing-back could open this option up to Lampard, returning one of his most important generals to his now-favoured position.

Furthermore, James even featured in central midfield at times for Wigan last season, proving just how much quality and versatility he has at his disposal.

And if Latics manager Paul Cook’s comments are anything to go by, James might well be perfectly suited for Premier League life, regardless of where he plays.

“I’m not speaking about Reece James,” he said in February. “I don’t need to.

“He’s player of the month every month, and he’s man of the match almost every week.

“There’s nothing else I can say about him. And he’s as good a lad as he is a player.”