Youth Teams
Youth Teams

Toulon Tournament winner Reece James aims for U19 Euro title

Friday 14 Jul 2017
Chelsea man James has been an important part of Keith Downing's squad
For most England players, winning a trophy is a once in a lifetime experience – but one Young Lion is on the cusp of achieving that honour twice in one summer.

When Reece James held the Toulon Tournament trophy aloft on 10 June, he thought he was ending the season on a perfect high. But, 16 days later, the versatile full-back found himself with another piece of silverware to set his sights on after being named in Keith Downing's final 18-man squad for the UEFA U19 European Championship in Georgia.

Now, at the tender age of 17, the Chelsea youngster is tantalisingly close to getting his hands on a second trophy in just over a month as England prepare to face Portugal in Saturday's European Under-19 Championship final.

In many ways, James is a symbol of England development teams' 2017 summer of success; a season during which the Young Lions have fostered a winning mentality.

"I thought winning Toulon would be a nice way to end the season," said James, "but as soon as I found out I was coming here, I was excited. I wanted to come straight away and experience that winning feeling again.

"There are certainly similarities between the two tournaments. Toulon was a mixed-age group and the first game (a 1-0 win over Angola) was a bit of a struggle as we didn't really know each other as a team. Then we built as a team and got stronger across the tournament.

"Winning a trophy is a great feeling and I want that feeling again."

James, who was named young player of the tournament at Toulon, has had to be patient in Georgia.

The Londoner made his first appearance as a late substitute in England's final group game – the 4-1 win over Germany – before starting the semi-final defeat of the Czech Republic.

Head coach Downing has regularly highlighted the importance of his entire squad, now down to 17 members following the departure of James' Chelsea teammate Trevoh Chalobah through injury.

"It's been a bit of a learning curve with me stepping up to play with older players. I'm not playing as much but I'm learning off older and more experienced players.

"I knew I'd have to bide my time when I was named in the squad as this isn't my age group and I'm playing with better players with more experience.

"Just because you don't start doesn't mean you're not going to play a key part in the tournament."

James' first involvement with England only came back in March when he was part of Neil Dewsnip's U18 squad that travelled out to Qatar.

Since then he's prematurely advanced up through the age groups, something that the FA Youth Cup winner believes has only improved his game.

"When you play with your own age you get complacent but when you play with older players it's faster and you have to concentrate more. That only helps you develop as a player.

"I'm very proud to play for England, when I got my first call up I wasn't really expecting it but it was a proud moment.

"Hopefully this is just the start for my England career and I can progress my way through all the ages."

England face Portugal in the final of the 2017 UEFA U19 Championship on Saturday, with kick-off at 5pm (BST) – live on Eurosport.

By Andy Walker Senior Communications Manager in Tbilisi, Georgia