The 20-year-old discusses his new deal, the highlight of his time in the Chelsea team so far and having his crossing compared with David Beckham…
Reece James signed a new five-and-a-half-year contract with Chelsea on Thursday afternoon and sat down soon after with the official Chelsea website. Here is what our home-grown right-sided defender had to say…
It’s all going pretty well for you at the moment...
‘Being injured at the start of the season was tough and then I slowly got back into it and I was given my chance against Grimsby, scoring on my debut was great, and ever since then I haven’t really looked back.
‘We started talking about a new contract about two months ago. When I started getting in the team and playing week in week out, everything has picked up.’
That’s a very long-term contract you’ve just signed, showing that not only has the club great belief in your potential but also, it seems, that there is nowhere else you would rather be in the next few years…
‘I have been here nearly my whole life and I would be happy to spend the rest of my career here. It is the club I have supported throughout and I have committed long-term.’
It must have been difficult for you at the start of the season, knowing that the chances were there in the team for the young players but that you were injured…
‘Obviously it is going to be tough when everyone else is getting their chance and you are out injured on the sidelines, but you just have to get back right and take time and then make sure when you get your chance you take it. It took a bit longer to get back than I was expecting but you just have to take it how it comes.’
Watch the whole video interview with Reece James now, exclusively on The 5th Stand app
Because of your time out when other young players did well, did you feel extra pressure on you when you did come into the team?
‘No, I didn’t feel any extra pressure. I just had to play my game and take everything as it comes and not look too far ahead.
Your crossing ability is getting plenty of mentions at the moment. Is it a quality you have always had or have you worked hard on adding it to your game?
‘I have always been quite good at passing when I have been on the ball and crossing is not too different from passing, and if you are playing in a position where crossing is a main key area of the game it is important, and the more I do it, the better I am going to get. Growing up and being stronger helps with crossing well, and learning different things and when to play it.’
There have been comparisons with David Beckham!
‘David Beckham is a legend and probably one of the best crossers of the ball there has been in world football. To be mentioned in the same sentence as his crossing is very good for me but he did it for many years and I have to respect what he did. I have only done it for a few games. A lot of people have said about it but I need to maintain it and keep on improving.’
Does it mean you can take a good free-kick as well?
‘If there is a free-kick there and it is for me, I would not put it past me. It is similar skill, not too much difference.’
As a right back, you of course must be equally keen to be known for your defending. Is that developing quickly as you play Premier League games?
‘Defensively in the Premier League, if you make a mistake you are punished. There are more quality players so you need to be a lot more alert and on the ball. Players are quicker and sharper.’
It was a proper test of your defending to face Wilfried Zaha when you played against Crystal Palace on your first Premier League start…
‘He is a great player, one of the best players in the Premier League for a few years now, but coming up against him I just had to play my game and do my best, and it was a good game.’
One of the small pieces of criticism you have faced so far was for West Ham’s winning goal in November but Frank Lampard named you in the team for the next game against Aston Villa. Did that feel an important boost?
‘It was a mistake by me for that goal. I thought as Aaron Cresswell is left-footed, maybe he is going to cross from the left but he cut back and I showed him too much on one side. But making a mistake and losing that game and then being in the starting line-up in the next game after shows great faith by the manager, and that game went well.’
At Wigan, what was it like suddenly playing so many games in your first season of senior football?
‘At the start it takes a while to get used to it. In the Academy I wasn’t used to playing so many games in a week. Gradually, as it went on, I got used to it and it just became normal. Now when we have Champions League and cup games and we play two games a week, I am ready and prepared.’
Are you definitely a right-back now or is playing in midfield still a possibility?
‘Where I play is down to the manager but I am willing if he wants to play me in another position. I am happy playing right-back but no one has said this is the only position I am going to play in now.’
Tell us about working with Jody Morris and Joe Edwards…
‘It is great. Coming through at Under-16s, 17s, 18s, 19s with Joe and Jody, I worked with them day in day out since a schoolboy so they both know me very well. Now with them being with the first team, that helps a lot. We have a good connection and a relationship and they are on the training ground every day so we still talk.’
What has been the highlight of your time in the Chelsea team so far?
‘It probably is scoring against Ajax in the Champions League. That was the best bit of the season so far, obviously not the start of the game but the second half and when the stadium erupted having been 4-1 down. For the goal it was a hard ball to hit but I just had to get it on target and hope for the best. It is a shame our next goal was disallowed.’