Reece James opens up on injury nightmare and why he's loving Sunderland's hectic schedule
You often hear players complaining about the hectic festive fixture schedule - but there will be no such grumbles from Reece James.
Jack Ross himself admitted that the Black Cats’ recent fixtures have seen them left ‘leggy’, but James is relishing the matches coming thick and fast.
And it’s clear to see why.
The full-back, signed in the summer from Wigan Athletic, has had a tumultuous few seasons having missed large chunks through injury.
Several ankle issues threatened to blight James’ positive trajectory in the game in what proved to be a testing time for the former Manchester United youngster.
James has now opened up on his injury woes - and his determination to put them behind him once and for all.
“I was out for two years, it was a tough time both mentally and physically,” he said.
“I missed a lot of football.
“I had a lot of problems with my ankle. I had five issues going on with it, but they couldn’t all be sorted at the same time.
“ I found it tough to come back from, but I knew at some point it would happen.”
After missing so much football, it’s easy to see why James is appreciative of such regular fixtures.
With his injury worries now a distant memory, he’s keen to make the most of the opportunity he has been afforded by Jack Ross.
“I want to try and make up for lost time now because it’s not easy for anyone to miss two years of football,” he admitted.
“I’ve missed a lot of football over the last three years through injury, so for me it’s good to be playing week in, week out.
“That’s what I like to do and what I want to do. “
Injuries to Bryan Oviedo and Denver Hume handed James a starting spot in the Black Cats’ side and he has grasped the opportunity with both hands.
Now a regular under Ross, James has put in a number of promising displays on the left-hand side.
The most recent of those came at Walsall on Saturday, where James dealt well with the attacking threat posed by Josh Gordon while also offering a viable attacking option.
Fans have been impressed with the 25-year-old in recent weeks, and the defender himself is just keen to keep building momentum - so won’t complain about the jam-packed schedule.
“You just want to keep building momentum and you do that when you play week in, week out.
“Things start to come back and you start to feel a lot more comfortable.
“You can understand the players you play with, where they want the ball and how they want it.
“You can only build a bit more momentum when you play week in, week out.”
While the full-back has impressed on the road in recent weeks, he is keen to impress Sunderland’s home faithful too.
James has started just three league games at the Stadium of Light this season but several home fixtures over the coming weeks offer him the chance to shine on his new home stage.
And the defender is keen to play his part in what he hopes will be a successful spell of fixtures for the Wearsiders - which can see them pick up a run of good results as they continue to purse promotion from League One.
“We’ve got tough games and it’s been tough with the travel with quite a few away games,” he added.
“I feel like we’ve barely played at the Stadium of Light this season, especially while I’ve got into the team.
“We’ve got a few home games now coming up and they’re big games.
“It’s what you want to do as a footballer, you want to play the big sides and have good runs.
“Hopefully we can do that in the league.”