Gareth Southgate impressed with Chelsea defender Reece James following senior call-up
England manager Gareth Southgate has given a glowing verdict on Chelsea defender Reece James, who made his senior debut for his country on Thursday.
England beat Wales 3-0 in an international friendly match and there were plenty of new faces involved in the experimental side.
James was used as a substitute during the second-half of the game to make his senior England debut and he was only promoted from the Under-21s squad at the last minute during the international break.
The 20-year-old has remained with the main squad for the upcoming Nations League fixtures against Belgium and Iceland.
He looked assured stepping out onto the pitch at Wembley, showing glimpses of why the Chelsea academy graduate is so highly thought of at Stamford Bridge.
Southgate has spoken about James’ debut for the Three Lions, as well as saying that he’s caught the eye in training:
“I thought he did really well. There are so many debuts and so many good performances it was difficult to speak about everybody. I thought he used the ball very calmly, he’s got great quality in the final third of the pitch as well,” Southgate said in his press conference.
“He was very strong in his defensive work so I thought he really gave a very mature performance for half an hour. He didn’t look out of place at all.
“We know he’s a player we like and is on the fringes of our thinking, he’s in a position on the pitch where there is probably as much competition for places in terms of players playing at Champions League level, never mind Premier League level, so we’re really blessed in this country in terms of right-backs. He’s right in that mix.
“We had thought about just bringing in him for that first game [against Wales] and then him perhaps going back with the Under-21s, but given the way things have panned out we think it’s important for him to stay with us and he’s performed well in training and we’re really pleased with him.”
James is going to find it extremely difficult to nail down a right-back spot in the England team when Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is around, but that doesn’t mean the Chelsea star should be written off.
The attack-minded full-back has delivery into the box better than most in the Premier League and it’s time for his teammates to start finishing off his chances.
His defensive work is still an area he can improve on, but he’s a real powerhouse that defends aggressively and he’s got the experience in the Blues squad to learn from the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva.