- Southgate hoped to draft him for upcoming qualifiers
- James declined, citing fitness concerns
- Reece James risks Euro 2024 exclusion
WHAT HAPPENED? The Chelsea captain recently returned to action after recovering from a three-month layoff during the Blues’ 2-0 Carabao Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers but has declined an England recall for upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta. Despite Southgate’s intention to include the right back in the squad, Reece James feels he isn’t fully prepared for the rigours of international football and chose to excuse himself from being selected.
Although the manager insisted that he understands and respects Reece James’ decision, he reminded the full-back that he will have only one more chance to break into the squad before Euro 2024 and there is no dearth of talent for his position in England.
WHAT THEY SAID: “I was hoping to call up Reece James but he doesn’t feel he’s quite ready,” revealed Southgate.
“I understand that, he’s had a long path back from a number of injuries. He’s probably a bit cautious in that respect, but I can understand why.”
Southgate went on to explain in more detail and added: “There is (a lot of talent ahead of James) and that’s the risk. He’s only got one more squad before the Euros. So he knows that. We’ve got belief in what he can do. We did discuss (reporting for duty to attend team meetings) and he was very keen to make clear, ‘Look I don’t want you to think I don’t want to be there.
“We had a really good long conversation and exchange of messages after that as well. But I’m very understanding. His injury record, you can see the number of matches and the different phases (he has missed). So we are all conscious that we want to have a fit Reece that can play consecutive games. Physical reliability is going to be really important. I think we will always manage a player as well as we can but there is a reality around his training at the moment. He plays and there’s a couple of days’ recovery. There’s a little bit more angst from his side. I totally get that. We would have loved to have him with us, don’t get me wrong. But I’m perfectly calm with the conversation.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Mauricio Pochettino wants to ease him into his return to competitive football. After giving James an hour against Blackburn, he was taken off after 77 minutes during the London derby against Tottenham. Hence, the player might have decided to work at Cobham during the international break so that he can be at his best when action resumes in club football in late November.
WHAT NEXT? It remains to be seen how Pochettino uses James when Chelsea host Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday, which will be their last assignment before the November international break sets in.