Gareth Southgate has told Chelsea defender Reece James he will not be included in England’s 26-man squad for the World Cup finals.
In a statement on social media, James said he was “devastated” and added that he “really believed” he could help the team in Qatar. The 22-year-old has been in a race against time to be fit after picking up a knee injury against AC Milan last month.
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James flew to Dubai to undergo a specialist recovery program and began running outdoors at Chelsea’s Cobham base, but following regular dialogue between the club doctors and England’s medical team, the right-back was deemed too much of a fitness risk to take to Qatar.
“The moment I injured my knee, I knew the turnaround to reach the World Cup would be difficult, but I always felt it was possible,” said James.
“I worked harder than I ever thought I could to give myself the best chance to go and really believed I could help the team.
“I appreciate there was risk on both sides, but it was one I was prepared to take.”
— Reece James (@ReeceJames) November 9, 2022
Southgate will confirm his final selection at St George’s Park on Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea boss Graham Potter said on Tuesday there was no date for James to return to club action.
“I think it’s just how he reacts,” Potter said. “We don’t want to rush anything. I certainly don’t want to put any timescales on it, that’s for the doctors and the physios.”
James’ injury raises the prospect of Trent Alexander-Arnold being selected despite his mixed form at Liverpool.
Elsewhere, Southgate has injury concerns with Kyle Walker (groin) and Kalvin Phillips (shoulder) in a race to be fit, although there is more optimism that the pair could have progressed enough to be included.
Apart from Walker and Phillips, Southgate will also have calls to make on whether to call up Marcus Rashford and James Maddison. Rashford missed out on the last squad in September through injury but has scored seven goals in 17 appearances for Manchester United this season.
Maddison has more Premier League goal involvements (22) in the calendar year than any other Englishman apart from Harry Kane, but has not been named in an England squad since 2019.
Harry Maguire will also be sweating on his place having started just two games for United in all competitions since August 13, when Erik ten Hag’s side lost 4-0 to Brentford.