SAMI MOKBEL: Now England boss Southgate is sweating on fitness of his right-hand man James

SAMI MOKBEL: Now Gareth Southgate is sweating on Reece James’ fitness… an England starting XI at the World Cup without his right-hand man seems unfathomable now

  • Chelsea’s Reece James was withdrawn against AC Milan after hobbling off 
  • The full-back tried to play on but went down holding his knee at the San Siro
  • Gareth Southgate faces anxious wait to discover the extent of James’ injury 
  • England begin their World Cup campaign against Iran in less than five weeks

In England, Gareth Southgate was experiencing the sinking feeling that is becoming all too familiar to him as Reece James hobbled off here. First Kyle Walker, now this. 

The Chelsea full back was adding to his growing portfolio of excellent performances before limping off with what appeared to be a knee injury in the 60th minute.

How Southgate will be hoping for good news about James when England medics check in on his fitness this morning.

Chelsea's Reece James goes down injured in their Champions League tie against AC Milan

Chelsea’s Reece James goes down injured in their Champions League tie against AC Milan

With or without Walker, an England starting XI without James seems unfathomable now.

With less than five weeks before the Three Lions begin their World Cup campaign against Iran, there is every possibility Southgate sees it the same way.

Walker’s importance to England is unquestionable — one of the best right-sided defenders in European football.

The defender had to be substituted by Chelsea manager Graham Potter in the second-half

The defender had to be substituted by Chelsea manager Graham Potter in the second-half

James has long been viewed as the heir to Walker’s throne but we have gone beyond that now.

This is James’s time.

That is not meant as a slight on Trent Alexander-Arnold who, despite his current difficulties, has his best days in an England shirt ahead of him. There simply has to be a place in the team for James, regardless of what system Southgate uses.

Here at the San Siro on Tuesday night, he patrolled the right side of Chelsea’s team with authority and conviction. It was like he owned the place. By no means in an arrogant way — his work ethic and willingness to sacrifice an integral feature of why James is being heralded as one of the best all-round young footballers on the planet.

England boss Gareth Southgate faces anxious wait to discover the extent of James' injury

England boss Gareth Southgate faces anxious wait to discover the extent of James’ injury

But it is his natural quality in possession, his ability to pick the right pass that sets him apart.

In the 19th minute, James scanned his radar and executed. The result: a Chelsea penalty and AC Milan were reduced to 10 men. Chaos all from a poetic stroke of James’ right boot.

His club manager Graham Potter backed him to become a Chelsea legend last week after another brilliant display in the home tie against the Rossoneri.

Southgate will be desperate to present James with an opportunity to make himself an England legend in Qatar.

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