A father, a coach and a mentor: The making of Chelsea and Manchester United starlets Reece and Lauren James

It’s a moist and windy Wednesday night in New Malden, Wimbledon. Members of The Nigel James Elite Teaching Programme are taking part in considered one of their common weekly coaching periods at Objectives.

A voice barks out: “You don’t permit anybody to shoot. You’re by no means going to be any good in case you do this. It’s the primary rule for defending. Come on!”

Robust love. That’s precisely what you get from Nigel James. 

James calls for requirements. If you happen to don’t meet them, you’ll be instructed in no unsure phrases that it’s not adequate. It’s so simple as that.

Dad to 2 of English soccer’s brightest prospects, Reece (Chelsea) and Lauren (Manchester United), James Sr lives and breathes soccer.

The pair’s older brother, Joshua, was additionally on Fulham and Studying’s books earlier than venturing into a unique profession path.

Reece James has been on Chelsea’s books since he was six and has made 20 appearances for the primary staff this season
Lauren James is a promising striker for Manchester United, and an England Below-19 worldwide
Getty Photographs – Getty

James Sr has labored as a soccer coach for over 20 years, whereas additionally scouting for the likes of Fulham, Studying and Tottenham.

He had excessive hopes of forging a profitable enjoying profession himself as soon as upon a time.

An imposing central defender, he was on Aldershot’s books when he suffered a damaged ankle in a bike accident, which successfully curtailed his hopes of changing into an expert footballer.

James grew to become more and more disillusioned with soccer as he struggled to take care of the setback, with little in the best way of help. Now he’s utilizing his tough experiences within the sport to information his kids, and numerous others.

Talking solely to, the 43-year-old mentioned: “After the harm I misplaced confidence in myself. 

“If you happen to’re not surrounded by constructive individuals in these conditions who assist choose you up, then it performs in your thoughts much more.

“After I was at Aldershot I didn’t really feel as if I had that help community. I fell out of affection with the sport.

“I used to be in a really lonely place again then. I used to be dwelling in London and getting the prepare to Aldershot after which getting again residence late at evening. I wasn’t having fun with it.

Chelsea starlet Reece James alongside his father, Nigel
Nigel James Teaching/Twitter

“To make issues worse you get instructed a pack of lies. The same old stuff like ‘maintain your head up and attempt to be constructive’. 

“The underside line is I used to be offered a dream. Folks promote individuals a dream simply to maintain the numbers up. That’s the truth of it.”

Do you continue to see that taking place rather a lot now, then?

“Completely. I see the identical factor occurring with sure golf equipment,” he defined.

“You get these younger lads getting strikes to Premier League sides they usually’re clearly buzzing.

“However the actuality is the one motive they’ve been taken on is to play within the Below-23s.”

After hanging up his boots on the age of 19, James then ventured into a brand new pathway inside soccer – and one which he has achieved nice success in.

Such was James’ willpower to try to get his kids to show skilled, he would do further coaching periods and limitless drills with all three of them each night behind their home.

Reece and Lauren James pictured of their youthful days
Nigel James Teaching/Twitter

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than James had put collectively a secure of probably the most gifted kids within the space and fashioned an Below-Eight staff, which included Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Ian Carlo Poveda (Manchester Metropolis) and Alfie Doughty (Charlton), in addition to his personal kids.

Nigel James Elite Teaching was first arrange in 2002, and has since helped 26 gamers safe skilled contracts, whereas over 60 have spent a big variety of years within the academy system. 

The outcomes communicate for themselves. Scouts are commonly in attendance at each coaching periods and video games.

The teaching is about pure ball mastery. The purpose is for the members, each male and females, to grow to be elite technicians – the kind of distinctive participant that each one soccer followers love to look at.

Training can be a crucial theme on the NJEC, instilling these values and rules into the children – whether or not they make it as an expert or not – for later life.

James, who has ten workers engaged on the programme, may be very a lot old fashioned in his strategy.

He calls for that his gamers arrive early forward of coaching, conduct themselves in the best method always and shake arms earlier than and after the top of each session.

Conor Gallagher was Academy Participant of the 12 months for Chelsea final season and is at the moment on mortgage at Swansea
Getty Photographs – Getty

“Having that mutual respect goes a good distance,” he emphasised. “Right here at NJEC we now have that with all of our gamers and fogeys. We’re an enormous household.

“It’s all about self-discipline. Having the best package, ensuring your boots are clear, and performing skilled always. These items are vitally essential. I wouldn’t count on something much less.

“You’ve received to point out that authority. If you happen to’re straight with them, you’ll be able to count on them to be straight with you.”

One other instance of that direct strategy is highlighted in the course of the coaching session which was invited down to look at.

“You look misplaced, I have to make you perceive the place it’s essential be. You’re having no impression on the sport,” he tells the teenager in query.

“You haven’t touched the ball within the final 10 minutes, what’s happening? Speak to me.”

There’s a debrief on the finish of each session
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Agency, however honest. Whereas James doesn’t take any prisoners, he has a delicate aspect to him, too.

The mom of 1 youngster walks as much as him on the finish of the session in reception to have a personal phrase. Beside her is a visibly emotional boy.

It transpires that the lad in query feels overlooked of the staff he’s enjoying in; he says a few the gamers have acted in another way in direction of him just lately.

James calls the boy over and embraces him. In a softly spoken method he points some comforting phrases earlier than explaining to him what he must do to resolve the difficulty.

They shake arms and James trudges over in direction of me in an apologetic method.

“Sorry about this, it’s been a mad night,” he mentioned, as we sit all the way down to chew the fats.

James calls for excessive requirements from the NJEC members
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James acknowledges that solely a choose few will, in all chance, make a profitable transition into the skilled sport.

He underlines examples the place NJEC has helped develop sure gamers for various functions.

“Not everybody goes to get a scholarship and switch skilled,” he admitted.

“You’d love that to occur, nevertheless it isn’t sensible. I’ve had kids come right here who’ve improved their sport and received into their county aspect, others have gotten first-team scholarships.

“After which there’s guys who’ve gone to school or school and been outstanding members in these groups.

“There was even one who was named the first-team captain, which he rightly considered as an enormous achievement, and that’s all due to the extent of soccer they’ve performed at.”

The programme is designed to assist the members turn out to be elite technicians of the sport
Off the Pitch Media

He added: “I don’t do that for my very own private acquire. Folks pay me for a service and a few dad and mom will say to me please are you able to get my son scouted by an expert membership.

“If I can then get them to a membership we are able to all shake arms and say properly accomplished, we’ve achieved what we’ve got down to do. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

James, who additionally manages Hanworth Villa Below-18s, refers to AFC Wimbledon teenager Jack Rudoni as a shining instance for the remainder of his academy to look as much as.

The gifted midfielder got here by way of the ranks at NJEC, earlier than signing skilled phrases with the League One outfit final March.

Nonetheless solely 18, Rudoni made his full debut for the Dons at Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day.

AFC Wimbledon teenager Jack Rudoni is a profitable product of the teaching programme
AFC Wimbledon

The membership consider Rudoni has the potential to get proper to the very high. A view that’s shared by James.

“Jack’s an incredible child. He’s been by way of some robust instances, however he listened and took on board the recommendation I gave him,” he mentioned.

“The dad and mom listened to me, too. That’s vitally essential when it comes all the way down to the event of a younger participant. You all should be on the identical wavelength.

“Jack’s technical capability and mentality is absolute high drawer.

“That places him above a whole lot of different gamers. The character he has proven has been inspirational.

“He’s received a terrific likelihood of being a high class footballer. His potential is scary.”

The cellphone rings; Reece is looking his dad to debate Chelsea-related issues.

“Oh yeah, earlier than you go are you able to kind that signed shirt for nan,” James Sr remarks.

“Sorry, I do know there’s been a couple of of those requests just lately. Thanks son.”

He seems to be over and chuckles: “I’m drained man, it’s been a protracted day.”

A father, a coach and a mentor. James Sr has fairly the workload.

He’s additionally just lately signed on as an middleman, with the purpose of constructing a secure of younger and gifted gamers – a few of which he’s beforehand labored with.

So how precisely does he really juggle every little thing round?

“Good query. However I can’t reply it! Truthfully, I’m right here, there and all over the place,” he grins. “I’ve to try to make it to all their [children’s] video games, too. 

“After I missed [owing to coaching duties] ‘that aim’ in opposition to Ajax [Reece becoming Chelsea’s youngest-ever Champions League scorer] the boy wasn’t finest happy, I’ll inform you that!”

“I don’t understand how I discover the time to do all of it, actually. It’s unending. No day is ever the identical. I simply drift.”

However James Sr wouldn’t need it every other approach.

If you’re occupied with becoming a member of the Nigel James Elite Teaching Programme, you’ll be able to contact the staff on or go to their web site for extra info.


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