Gary Neville says Reece James needs to stay fit to become England’s best right-back

Gary Neville says Reece James needs to stay fit to become England’s best right-back

Gary Neville confessed to being concerned about Reece James’ fitness.

Speaking on Monday Night Football, Neville noted the number of times the Chelsea defender has been in the treatment room this season.

Who knows how different the campaign could’ve gone had James remained available for the majority.

There was a period when the 22-year-old had his eyes on the club’s Golden Boot prize, at around the same time Thomas Tuchel’s team were top of the Premier League.

Both ambitions have since faded into the distance, with Tuchel ready to press the restart button.

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James probably wouldn’t mind hitting reset as well, following a disrupted term.

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

A hamstring issue made the full-back miss over a month between January and February.

He did not feature at all in the Club World Cup, nor in the two Carabao Cup semi-final victories over Tottenham Hotspur.

His return to league action produced a goal and an assist away to Burnley.

But no sooner had James recovered, he was back on the sidelines again with a muscle problem.

Reece versus Trent

The England international has managed to run the last stretch of Chelsea’s marathon, although the finish line can’t come soon enough.

Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool added to the Blues’ recent misery.

Jurgen Klopp’s side eventually won on penalties, following Mason Mount’s failed attempt in sudden death.

Leading up to Alisson’s save, both James and Trent Alexander-Arnold slotted their shots away confidently, adding to the personal battle that is going on between them.

Each of the compatriots performed well at Wembley, the stadium they will be hoping to see more of in the build-up to the World Cup.

Photo by Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

They will be vying for the right-back position with numerous other worthy candidates, including Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and Kieran Tripper from Newcastle United.

Neville concerned about James’ fitness

Although he might not get the nod for Qatar, Neville backed James to one day come out on top, as long as he stays clear of the medical centre.

“I think Reece James could be the best out of them all,” said the former Manchester United defender.  

“I have concerns over his fitness and I would want to make sure he kept fit for a season or two, but he could be the best out of all of them if he continues to go forward.”

“He could be a mix of Kyle Walker and Trent. He’s a great crosser of the ball, Reece James,” continued Jamie Carragher.

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Carragher will understandably want to see Alexander-Arnold selected by Gareth Southgate due to his Liverpool bias.

Based on form and availability throughout 2021/22, the current Anfield star may well beat James the punch at the World Cup.

Yet, there is still half a season to go before England jet off, so let’s wait and see what happens with Reece next.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.

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