Chelsea starlet Reece James has praised manager Frank Lampard for giving young players a chance this season, especially when the club has been criticised over the last 10 years for not offering home-grown talent a route into the first-team.
James, who was named in the 2018/19 Championship Team of the Season while on loan at Wigan, made his Chelsea debut against Grimsby in the Carabao Cup this week.
The 19-year-old started at right-back and scored a goal, and was one of five home-grown players who appeared at some point during the 7-1 win. New first-team regulars Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori were also unused substitutes on the bench.
Remarkably, until N’Golo Kante scored against Liverpool last weekend, all of Chelsea’s Premier League goals this season had been scored by English players aged 21 or younger.
That is a significant culture change for a club whose last home-grown regular prior to the emergence of Callum Hudson-Odoi midway through last season was John Terry.
Admittedly, Lampard has been hamstrung by Chelsea’s ongoing transfer ban, but the former England midfielder still deserves credit for being so bold with young players.
“If you look at the past few years there probably isn’t as many who have played,” James is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail. “Out there [vs Grimsby] there were four or five of us that got on the pitch. That’s great for the academy, it shows the level and standard there is very good.”
James, whose younger sister Lauren stars for Manchester United in the Women’s Super League, had doubts about whether he would get chances at Chelsea this season. He had to wait to find out if he would be staying or going out on loan and was delighted it was the former.
Born in 1999, James has been with Chelsea since 2006. Lampard was actually one of his idols growing up, as was Didier Drogba and the aforementioned Terry.
“When I was young, I supported the club and still do now. I probably looked up to Drogba, Terry, Lampard. They were the main three leaders,” the player explained.
“It helped drive the team back then when I was a little kid. they were all winners. That was reflected in the trophies they won.”