Chelsea Academy graduate Reece James has flown under the radar a bit, especially when compared with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, or Tammy Abraham, but we’d do well to not let him get lost in the loan quagmire. He is, after all, the reigning Academy Player of the Year (beating out Hudson-Odoi), and all he’s done this season is take the Championship by storm as one its best players — though he’s a defender, so it’s not as easy to peddle the highlights — and already one of the “finest” (i.e. most talented) to ever play for Wigan Athletic, which is where he’s on loan for this season.
This week's 'Talking Football' column is on Reece James...can't believe I'm asking this after only nine months...but the evidence is compelling.* Feedback welcome. #wafc #cfc— Paul Kendrick (@PKendrickWIG) March 28, 2019
* Bear in mind debate is 'finest player', not 'greatest/biggest legend/etc'...https://t.co/WXl3Li9AME
Wigan have spent the past few years yo-yoing between the second and third divisions, but thanks to James’s efforts, they might just stay up this season after winning League One last year. The 19-year-old Chelsea loanee has been inarguably their best player, playing almost every single minute, winning the fan-voted Player of the Month award most months, and gaining admirers left, right, and center. He can rule the flank as a right back, and recently, he’s started to dominate in midfield as well. His future clearly lies well above the bottom reaches of the Championship.
“Reece was initially brought in as defensive cover. After two training sessions, it became perfectly obvious Reece was not going to be defensive cover...”
“He’s player of the month every month, and he’s man of the match almost every week. There’s nothing else I can say about him. And he’s as good a lad as he is a player. If every young player had his attitude, England would be winning a lot more trophies going forward.
“The kid’s an absolute superstar and I’m so proud he plays for us.”
-Paul Cook, Wigan Athletic manager; source: Wigan Today
Of course, this is the part of the developmental journey where Chelsea have the greatest of difficulties. James, who has been with the club since before age seven (7!), should be getting serious consideration for a first-team spot now. But there’s the usual logjam of average, overpriced, and overpaid players that constantly clutters up the first-team, leaving no room for our own youth. In an ideal world, Chelsea would only spend money on the a few big-money signings and fill the rest of the squad with homegrown talent (some of whom are on the path to becoming big-money signings themselves). Instead, we carry a ton of dead weight.
Still, Reece has the blue shirt firmly in his sights, wanting to follow in the footsteps of his childhood heroes, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba.
“It’s a great feeling to play week in, week out in a good league and to play on the international stage as well.
“My ambition is to play for Chelsea, and every day I work hard to get there. I was a fan as a kid...my heroes growing up were (Frank) Lampard, (John) Terry and (Didier) Drogba. Sooner or later, hopefully I get chance.”
-Reece James; source: Wigan Today
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were sooner? Maybe the transfer ban will prove a sorely needed blessing in disguise, to reconnect the club with local roots while maintaining the modern tradition of excellence and winning.