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Reece James has opened up on the difficult road to making his dreams come true for Chelsea and England.
The 21-year-old can already call himself a Champions League winner following a masterful display in the final against Manchester City last month.
And now, the Blues academy graduate will be looking to add European Championship glory with England to his impressive CV.
At Chelsea since the age of six, it may look like James’ path was laid out for him since day one.
But the road wasn’t that straightforward.
Like so many Chelsea academy stars, he was sent out on loan to the Championship, where he starred as Wigan’s player of the year during the 2018/19 season.
Returning to Stamford Bridge with a newly-found reputation, the right-back suffered a long-term injury at the worst possible time.
But after being given a first-team opportunity under Frank Lampard last term, the Englishman has never looked back.
“Growing up, I always wanted to come through at Chelsea and I always thought I had the ability,” he told talkSPORT.
“The journey has had a lot of ups and downs and it’s been tough.
“I’m very grateful and thankful I’m here. I couldn’t have done it myself, it’s been a collective effort, I’ve had lots of great teammates and coaches.
“So many people have helped me along the way. It wasn’t easy, like it might’ve looked.
“I didn’t go to Chelsea and just break in straight away. I had to go out on loan, I had many setbacks, and a number of injuries I had to overcome.”
James helped ensure Man City, in particular Raheem Sterling, never really had a sniff in the Champions League final.
And although winning domestic football’s most coveted prize was the greatest moment of his career, those last seven minutes certainly were not.
“It’s the greatest moment of my career so far,” he added.
“Those seven minutes added on were the longest seven minutes of my life.
“We had to dig in together and fight the last stages of the game out.”
His performance in that match means many expect James to start for England at the Euros, especially if Gareth Southgate utilises wing-backs.
But just being picked for the tournament squad is a dream come true for the defender.
He continued: “I’ve dreamt of this moment for a very long time. It’s the pinnacle, representing your country in a major tournament.
“This season I’ve played quite a lot of positions, right back and wing-back. I’ve played right of a three as well.
“I’d probably say anywhere across those three, I’m comfortable.”
James isn’t just there to make up the numbers in Southgate’s squad, nor are England in the competition simply to take part.
They harvest very real hopes of winning their first European Championship ever when they open up against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.
“With this group of lads we have, anything is possible,” James said.
“We’ve got so many great players in the team and I don’t see why we can’t do it now.”
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