Chelsea currently have forty (40) players out on loan and one of their brightest prospects is also one of the youngest, 18-year-old Reece James currently on loan at Wigan Athletic.
The England U18, U19 and U20 right back has been an ever present for Latics since signing on a season long loan in June. James has just won Latics’ Player of the Month award for the third consecutive month after an impressive start to life in the Championship.
Reece is from a big football family as father Nigel runs the Elite Football Academy in South London and his 17-year-old sister Lauren plays for Manchester United Women’s team and England U17s.
Reece has been with Chelsea since the age of six and last season Captained the Under-18s to an FA Youth Cup triumph and was named Academy Player of the Season.
At the end of last season he had a big decision to make, should he stay at Chelsea with the Under-23s or go on loan elsewhere?
Reece told the Times newspaper why he decided to go to Wigan,
“I wanted to go to a club that played good football and the season before they won League One and I liked the way they played. Chelsea and Wigan both play out from the back and because they both get after the ball when they don’t have it”.
It’s been a great move for both parties as James has been the most consistent performer and 15th placed Latics have made a creditable start to their Championship campaign.
His first goal for Wigan was a stunning free kick against Leeds United and manager Paul Cook commented after the game,
“Reece has been excellent for us since he’s been here. He’s an 18-year-old boy, but everything about the kid suggests he’s going to have a very strong career. He’s a fantastic kid, and his ability is only matched by his temperament and his attitude. If every 18-year-old conducted themselves the way Reece does, football would be in a good place”.
There are rumours that Brighton, who have already signed Latics’ centre-back Dan Burn, are interested in signing James in the January transfer window.
Brighton scouts have been so impressed with his displays for Cook’s side that they are prepared to offer £10m for him. James is seen as a long-term replacement for 38-year-old Seagulls captain Bruno.
However, despite interest from Brighton and other clubs, James may decide to see his long-term future at Chelsea.
Interestingly, head of youth development at Chelsea, Neil Bath has said that the club prefer all their players to have at least 150 appearances in senior football before they enter the first-team at Chelsea, whether that be a youngster or a new signing.
This would imply that James would need at least two more full seasons away on loan before permanently returning to Chelsea, which might leave the door open for Latics to retain his services for another season.