Watching Chelsea triumph in FA Cup finals was a regular occurrence for a young Reece James, and now the lifelong Blues supporter wants to add his name to the list of those who have picked up a winner’s medal in the prestigious competition.
James can recall watching his boyhood idol Didier Drogba firing the Blues to Wembley glory on a number of occasions in the late 2000s and early 2010s, as Chelsea enhanced our FA Cup pedigree with four victories in six years. ‘Whenever we needed a goal he would be there knocking it over the line,’ Reece recalls.
More recently, we have reached the final in four of the past five seasons and will be hoping to avenge last August’s defeat to Arsenal, in which James played the full game, with victory over Leicester City tomorrow.
‘When you come all the way to a final and you are so close to getting your hands on the trophy, then you don’t achieve that, it’s very disappointing,’ says James of that loss.
‘So it’s great being in the final again, and hopefully this time around we can put it right.
‘I have always dreamed about playing in finals for Chelsea. As a Chelsea fan growing up, it has always been my dream to win trophies for the club I support.
‘Growing up as a kid I watched the first team lift many trophies, and even coming through the Academy we lifted many trophies and played in many finals and won many competitions.
‘It’s part of Chelsea’s DNA to win trophies, and hopefully this season we can replicate that.’
It has been another thoroughly impressive campaign for the 21-year-old James.
He has played in nearly 80 per cent of our 55 games so far, accruing close to 3,000 minutes of football and earning a spot in the senior England squad.
‘I think my overall game has improved,’ he reckons.
‘Building momentum and playing regularly helps. Sometimes if you play and then don’t play, or pick up injuries, it’s hard to build momentum and find rhythm. This season, touch wood, I have stayed fit and healthy and that has played a massive part as well.
‘This season I have learned the most. Before this season I have never had to deal with a new manager coming in halfway through the season. That was a learning curve.
‘Frank gave me my debut and put his belief in me,’ acknowledges James of Lampard’s role in his progress.
‘If it wasn’t for him you could argue maybe I wouldn’t be playing now. I will always be thankful to him for what he did for me.
‘When the new manager came in I didn’t know what to expect, and you have to move pretty fast because the games come fast. He tells me what he expects of me and I try to prove to him every game how good I am.
‘Getting to grips and learning the way new players play is quite difficult as well, and once you get the hang of that it’s good and you start playing as a team.
‘Sometimes I look back and think how fast and how well things have gone,’ James concludes of his meteoric rise to the top of the game.
‘I have worked very hard to get to where I am and it wouldn’t have been possible without that hard work and dedication.’