Reece James signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea this month and explains what he hopes to achieve with the club during that time, as well as looking back at some of the highlights of his time with the Blues so far.
The Academy graduate was rewarded for his excellent performances and growing importance to the team with a fresh long-term deal at the start of September, meaning the journey he began with the Blues at the age of six will now continue until at least 2028.
James is currently on international duty with England and played against Italy on Friday, with a game against Germany tonight in the UEFA Nations League, but the 22-year-old spoke to the official Chelsea matchday programme before departing, discussing his immediate aims at Stamford Bridge and favourite moments with the Blues so far.
You’ve signed a new six-year contract. What’s the main challenge for you in that time?
‘It’s always good to sign a new contract, to know that you’re stable and going to be here for a long period.
‘The last few years have been good, but we’ve been to finals where we’ve lost as well. We want to win every competition we enter, and if we get to the final, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be going all the way.
‘There have been a few where we’ve got there, but there have also been a few domestic trophies that we haven’t picked up, which needs to change.’
What about in the more immediate short-term. What’s your main personal aim for this season?
‘The biggest thing for me this season is staying fit, not getting injured. I think last season I did well with my performances – my stats, goals and assists, clean sheets were all the best they’ve been – but I was injured for maybe three or four months and that was too long. So, I think if I stay on the pitch I will surpass what I did last season.
‘Obviously it’s tough when you get an injury. I think the first day or two are the hardest – when you realise how long you’re going to be out. Then you start working back and looking on the bright side. You try and set targets, but I did that last season and came back too soon, and got injured again. These things are very frustrating – working your way back and then being out for another three weeks is not what you want.’
Just before signing that contract, your sister Lauren made her England debut, making you two the first siblings to play for England’s men’s and women’s teams. That must have been a proud moment for your family…
'When we were growing up it was both of our dreams to one day play for Chelsea and England. So that achievement is now ticked off, and it’s a great achievement, something we’ve always wanted to do and now we’re finally here.
'I know how hard she’s worked and it hasn’t been easy for either of us. In the last two years, she’s had a lot of injuries so it has taken her a lot of hard work to get to where she is.'
Looking back at your senior Chelsea career so far, what do you think has been your best performance and why?
‘Beating Juventus 4-0 last season. That was just a really good all-round team performance and a good performance for myself too.
‘When you’re limiting errors and having a big impact on the game, scoring, not conceding, that’s what I think makes a good performance. I think there are many factors that come into it and they all play a part.’
You’ve scored some great goals for Chelsea, too. Which was your favourite?
‘Probably the one in the 4-4 draw with Ajax felt the best. It was my first Champions League goal and that game was so crazy. We were down 4-1 and if we had said at that point that we were going to come back and draw, I think we would have been written off. On top of that it was my first goal in Europe and I was so young as well.
‘It’s electric when you celebrate goals like that – you score and then you can see the joy and excitement from the fans as well – it’s a great feeling.’
You got six goals and 10 assists for Chelsea last season, both your best figures in senior football. What’s behind those impressive attacking numbers?
‘I know my ability and how well I can strike a ball. Whenever I get the opportunity, I always try and score and give myself the best chance of scoring or getting an assist.
‘Full-backs were just full-backs before, but now they’re trying to use them as an extra player. We have space there and sometimes it works in your favour.
‘It’s great when you get high up the pitch and attack but sometimes the game is more difficult and you can’t do that because you’re defending more. In football, anything can happen and counter-attacks happen every game, so you have always got to remain switched on and not go to sleep.’
And what has your first impression of our new head coach been like?
‘In football, things happen very fast. I’ve played against Graham Potter’s teams a number of times and he seems like a good guy so far. He’s hungry to win and I think it’s going to be an exciting future.’