Reece James spent 13 years dreaming about what it would be like to run out at Stamford Bridge playing for Chelsea.
In front of a sell-out stadium in SW6 on Wednesday night, the teenager realised those dreams with a debut for his boyhood Blues and probably couldn’t have scripted it to go any better.
Two assists and a goal in a 90-minute display ended with Frank Lampard’s first home win in charge, a 7-1 thrashing of League Two Grimsby Town that saw us ease into the Carabao Cup fourth round.
‘It was a dream come true for me,’ said James, who enjoyed an excellent maiden year in senior football last term in the Championship with Wigan before Lampard decided he wanted the defender as part of his squad this season.
‘I’ve played for this club since I was seven and it’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. Playing at Stamford Bridge in front of all the fans was the best part of the night for me and it was a great atmosphere. I think all the fans could see the Academy players involved and they showed their support to us, which was a great feeling.
‘It was my first game for the club, and my first full game for five months at this level, so I’m thankful that it went so well. It was fantastic to get the win with the team and obviously it’s a great feeling for me individually to get two assists and score on my debut.’
James revealed that Lampard told him he would be making his Blues debut from the start earlier in the week but it took the sounds and sights of the stadium before the 19-year-old fully realised it was reality.
‘Frank told me the day before that I was starting but it doesn’t settle in until you’re actually out there on the pitch,’ he explained. ‘I’ve played in front of a few crowds before but nothing like Stamford Bridge.’
The Londoner grew up as a big Chelsea fan in an era of huge success for the club and he claimed it was the winning mentality of that special group of players that stood out to him the most. However, he also admitted there were senior players in the dressing room now that he was learning from daily, absorbing advice in order to fulfil his own enormous potential to the maximum.
‘I supported the club when I was young and I still do now,’ added James. ‘[Didier] Drogba, [John] Terry and Lampard were the three main leaders in the team when I was growing up and they were the players that I looked up to. They all wanted to be winners and that reflected in the number of trophies they won.
‘I haven’t played at this level before so there are little bits here and there where the senior players help me – they might pull me to one side and talk about my positioning or where to go when the ball is on the other side of the pitch. I learn from the other players every day.’