Reece James takes the long route back to Rotherham United

NOW: back with the Millers in 2024NOW: back with the Millers in 2024
NOW: back with the Millers in 2024
​A LOT has happened to Reece James since he shared regular car trips to Rotherham with Craig Morgan and Matt Derbyshire ten years ago.

He’s played for six clubs, stacked up nearly 200 league appearances and won three promotions from League One, two of them with Wigan Athletic.

Nothing will ever eclipse the mad night at Hillsborough a year ago when Sheffield Wednesday overturned a 4-0 deficit to pip Peterborough United 5-4 in a crazy L1 play-off semi-final.

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James will go down in Wednesday folklore for scoring one of the goals in that game and, for good measure, playing the lion’s share of the dramatic final at Wembley against Barnsley.

THEN: Reece James in action for Rotherham United ten years agoTHEN: Reece James in action for Rotherham United ten years ago
THEN: Reece James in action for Rotherham United ten years ago

After a season in the shadows at Wednesday, he’s back at Rotherham United, the place he played just over a handful of games as a still raw 20-year-old on loan from Manchester United.

"I’d been on loan at Carlisle for a single game and came on loan to Rotherham in the Championship when it was always going to be hard,” James told the Advertiser.

"We were just above the relegation zone at that time. It was challenging football, Championship football, but we had a good side and a decent run of results during the period I was here.

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"I thoroughly enjoyed it, playing in that sort of high impact professional football. I wanted to push myself and that’s exactly what I got out of it.

Alex FergusonAlex Ferguson
Alex Ferguson

"I remember I was in a car school at that time with Craig Morgan and Matt Derbyshire, two really experienced players to learn from.”

James’ association with Manchester United meant occasional contact with Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was during the dying embers of Fergie’s time at Old Trafford and young Reece was fresh in from completing a YTS course at Preston.

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"I had the last season of his time there,” recalls the Bacup-born defender.

"A couple of times you had a training session where you might be called over to do a bit of a shape role with him.

"Even though it was brief, you wanted to show everything you had in those brief moments.

"It was incredible and I learnt a lot from my time there. The reserves manager, Warren Joyce, had a massive impact and set me up to go out on loans, which is what you prepare for.

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"When I took the loans at Rotherham and Huddersfield you knew you were going into men’s football. My time around the first team, whether that be being involved on the bench or playing the only game I was actually involved in, all helped in that.”

That solitary game was a League Cup tie away to MK Dons which United lost 4-0.

Three months later, in November 2014, James pulled on the red and white of Rotherham for the first time for a 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool.

He played seven league games in all under Steve Evans before United called him back over the Pennines the following January, not least to help out their depleted reserves team, who were challenging at the top of their league at the time.

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James’ return to Rotherham has come via Huddersfield, Wigan, Sunderland, Doncaster, Blackpool and S6, where became a fans’ favourite for his versatility and honesty on the pitch.

It is a puzzle why he wasn’t involved more last season but there are no hard feelings.

"The fans took to me, which I’m really grateful for. I had a young daughter who was brought up in Sheffield and I’ve big ties to the city as well,” he says.

"It’s the first time at a club I’ve had a song, which was amazing for me, and I can’t thank the fans and the club enough for the support."

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His return to Rotherham has re-united him with Steve Evans, who was a big factor in the decision.

Reece is an impressive, articulate young man.

He’s studying for his coaching badges and for an academic qualification too.

At 30, his two-year deal is an important contract at an important time as he approaches the autumn of his playing career.

“This is in a period where you want to kick on and show the kind of player you actually are,” he says.

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"I’ve got the drivers, particularly after last season, to want to play each and every game and try to help whatever players I can.

"You’re also always wanting to learn and progress and do better than you already have done and that’s something I’m driving for each and every day.”