Reece James will miss the World Cup in Qatar because of injury.
After discussions with Gareth Southgate on Tuesday, it was decided the Chelsea full-back has not recovered sufficiently from the knee injury he picked up against AC Milan last month.
James flew to Dubai to undergo an intensive rehabilitation programme in an attempt to be fit for Qatar, and was even doing some tentative running at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground in recent days.
However, with injury concerns to another key England right-back – Kyle Walker – and to midfielder Kalvin Phillips, Southgate has taken the tough decision to tell James that he cannot risk including him in his 26-man squad that will be announced on Thursday.
‘James and his family devastated’
Sky Sports News’ England reporter Rob Dorsett:
“People close to James have told Sky Sports News the 22-year-old and his family are devastated that he will miss out, but they understand the England manager’s decision.
“There was hope, certainly from the player and his family and everyone around Chelsea that he could play some part in the World Cup, but he’s lost his race.
“I think the key issue here is the number of other injuries that Gareth Southgate is dealing with in this England squad.
“I said in that piece that Reece James was the furthest behind all of the England players in his recovery despite the fact that he’d gone to Dubai to speed up that recovery and despite the fact that he’d started running again at Cobham after that knee injury.
“But the FA medics as I understand it were told that it would be several weeks before Reece James would be fit to play. He’d then have to build up his match fitness and get back into the squad.
“Southgate decided that while he could still play a part in the latter stages of the tournament, he just couldn’t risk it, he couldn’t afford to take him.
“So he called Reece James yesterday to deliver the bad news and Reece James and his family are understandably devastated by it because he was England’s first-choice right-back before this injury he suffered in the Champions League against AC Milan last month.”
Morris: The right decision by Southgate and for James
Former Chelsea assistant Jody Morris on Sky Sports News:
“As much as Reece is going to be absolutely devastated to not make it for such a huge event in anybody’s career, I actually think it’s the right thing for Gareth and the right thing for Reece.
“I messaged Reece instantly when it first happened and said, ‘Make sure you don’t come back too early just to make yourself fit for the World Cup, you’ve got another 15 years ahead of you’.
“He’ll have opportunities to play in other tournaments. When someone is so young and they’ve got the rest of their career ahead of them, you’ve got to make sure they don’t cause themselves further damage for a tournament that comes too quickly.
“I’m gutted for him because I think he starts every game for England if he was fit. It looks like the right thing for him from a fitness aspect and for Chelsea and England long-term.”
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett analyses the key decisions Southgate has to make before naming his squad on Thursday:
“James Maddison, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire will make the headlines when Gareth Southgate names his World Cup squad on Thursday – whether they’re included on the list or not.
“While I expect the Manchester United duo to both be given seats on the plane to Qatar, Maddison’s selection is still very much 50-50.
“Southgate is still sweating on a number of key players who are racing to get fit enough for selection. Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker are in the middle of intensive rehabilitation programmes, and also at the centre of an anxious wait.
“This will be the first World Cup where nations are allowed to pick 26 players for the tournament, after new rules introduced by FIFA, and that gives the England boss a little more wriggle room.
“It means Southgate can consider players who might not be fully fit as well as those who can be used as impact substitutes, overcoming some of the limitations posed by traditional 23-man squads. Southgate is no fan of the bigger squads, though he did work with a 26-strong party for last summer’s Euros.
“Nations are allowed to make squad alterations at any stage up to 24 hours before their first game – in England’s case, that means an ultimate deadline of November 20.”
England’s World Cup squad will be announced at 2pm on Thursday; Follow all the news and reaction live on Sky Sports News and Sky Sports Digital with Rob Dorsett answering your questions on the confirmed England squad on Thursday afternoon