Reece James is a graduate of our development centre programme and has been training with us since the age of six.
A right-footed player, his athleticism and excellent crossing ability have helped him excel at full-back and wing-back, all the way through our Academy sides and now with the first team.
James started out mostly as a striker before moving further back into midfield and defence. He made his youth-team debut while still a schoolboy in 2015/16 before becoming a key figure in our Treble-winning Under-18 season the following year.
His versatility was a key attribute as he featured at right-back, wing-back and in a central defensive back three throughout the campaign, playing in every game as the Youth Cup was successfully retained and scoring a brilliant header in the semi-final at White Hart Lane.
In March 2017, James signed a first professional contract at the club which ran until the end of the 2018/19 campaign. He continued his good form in 2017/18, captaining the Under-18s to another FA Youth Cup triumph and being named Academy Player of the Season.
James suffered an ankle injury on international duty over the summer of 2018 while on international duty, so had to wait until late September before making his Blues bow. He marked the occasion with a goal, too, superbly curling a 20-yarder in against Grimsby in a big Carabao Cup win.
A week later he started in the Champions League as we defeated Lille in France, showing no signs of nerves on such a big stage, and demonstrating his attacking talents on the right as a wing-back.
The landmarks kept coming. He made his Premier League debut off the bench against Newcastle United, and his first start in the competition as we beat Crystal Palace 2-0, with James earning plaudits for the manner in which he kept Wilfried Zaha quiet, this time as a right-back.
Between those two games he scored a dramatic equaliser against Ajax (above), capping an incredible comeback from 4-1 down in 35 minutes after coming on at half-time, becoming Chelsea’s youngest-ever scorer in the Champions League and sparking delirium inside the Bridge.
James’ versatility on the right was an important asset for Lampard throughout the season, being utilised at full-back or wing-back, although he was also used in a back-three on occasion and came on for Mason Mount in midfield during the 4-0 victory over Everton in March.
His maturity and the trust he had earned by the end of the campaign was demonstrated when played the full 90 minutes in both the FA Cup semi-final and final, as well as the second leg of the Champions League tie away at Bayern Munich.
The right-back couldn’t have wished for a better start to the 2020/21 season, hammering home a stunning strike as we defeated Brighton 3-1 at the Amex Stadium on opening day.
His goal came after Leandro Trossard had cancelled out Jorginho’s opener, before Kurt Zouma added a third for the Blues to ensure we left the south coast with all three points. The defender was the deliverer of the corner that led to Zouma’s goal.
That would be Reece’s only Premier League goal of the campaign, but what a strike it was!
Reece quickly established himself as Chelsea’s first-choice right-back under Frank Lampard at the start of the season, keeping the more experienced Cesar Azpilicueta out of the side to begin with. The arrival of Thomas Tuchel saw the skipper return to the side with more regularity but that wasn’t necessarily at the expense of James. Our German head coach’s preference for a three at the back with wing-backs allowed for Azpi and James to co-exist at right central defender and right wing-back respectively on many occasions.
James even featured as the right centre-back on occasions too. Tuchel picked him in that role when we played against Leicester in both the Premier League and the FA Cup final, with the German pinpointing the defender’s pace and power as a way to combat Jamie Vardy in the Foxes frontline. While you’re most likely to see Reece line-up at right-back, the England international also showed his versatility by moving into central midfield on occasions to help see games out.
Without question, the highlight of James – and Chelsea’s – season came in the sunshine of Porto at the end of May. The defender was a key component of the Blues side that defeated Manchester City 1-0 to win the Champions League for the second time in our history. James played the entire 90 minutes at right wing-back and was praised for the way he limited the threat of City’s Raheem Sterling, with the England winger unable to get the better of James and cutting a frustrated figure throughout.
In June 2018, he signed a four-year Chelsea contract and went on loan to Wigan Athletic in the Championship for the forthcoming season.
There he was a huge success. He was instrumental in helping Wigan stay in the Championship and received an astonishing 96 per cent of the votes from Latics supporters in their Player of the Year poll.
He played at right-back and central midfield and was also voted Wigan’s Players’ Player of the Year. To top it off he won the club’s Goal of the Season award for a brilliant hit away to Bristol City.
He was a key part of the England Under-17 side that triumphed at the Toulon Tournament in the summer of 2017. There he impressed to such an extent he was named in the team of the competition. He travelled to the European Under-19 Championship the same year, before stepping up to Under-21 level in October 2019.
Almost exactly a year later received his first call-up to the England senior squad. His debut for the Three Lions soon followed, on 8 October 2020, when he came on as a substitute in the second half of a 3-0 win over Wales at Wembley Stadium, and he made his first start as a wing-back against Denmark in the Nations League, although he was shown a red card after the final whistle of that 1-0 defeat.
James was named as part of Gareth Southgate's England squad for Euro 2020, making one appearance for the Three Lions as he played every minute of the 0-0 draw against Scotland in the group stage. He was an unused substitute for four of their remaining five games, including the semis and the final as they lost out to Italy on penalties at Wembley.
- 4 APPEARANCES
- 187 MINUTES PLAYED
- 3 GAMES STARTED
- 1 GOALS
2 ASSISTS 2 CROSSES 3 CHANCES CREATED
75%TACKLE SUCCESS 4 TOTAL TACKLES 3 TACKLES WON