When Blackpool announced their first signing of the summer as full-back Reece James, there will have definitely been a couple of eyebrows raised! However, it was a case of “Not That One!”, as the England International’s namesake Reece James joins the Pool on a free transfer from Doncaster Rovers. This follows a very fruitful 2020/21 season with our former League One rivals.
Well, here we are again Seasiders – another summer transfer window which promises to be full of twists and turns as Neil Critchley and the club’s management team look to assemble a squad to compete. This time, we’re focusing on the Championship and that feels as good to type as I imagine it is to read.
After a couple of surprise departures were named on this years’ retained list in Ollie Turton and Sullay Kaikai, it’s left our squad looking quite slim – particularly within the full-back areas. Thankfully Reece James was the first of three arrivals in the same day which has bulked our squad out nicely. James’ arrival on a free transfer was most welcomed to bulk up an area where as it stands we are depleted (acknowledging the status of Garbutt/Husband as currently unknown).
James joins on a three-year deal with an optional fourth, meaning he’s tied down for his best years and will be 31 by the time he ends his contract.
Whilst James has spent the majority of his career at left back, he was utilised regularly as a defensive midfielder for large portions of the 2020-21 season, with his ability to break up play and keep possession being key attributes to his game. Slightly upgraded, left-footed Ollie Turton vibes.
The above illustrates James’ skillset across attacking, possession and defensive attributes. This is weighted towards attacking attributes, illustrating how advanced he played for Donny last year. Before we start with the annual ‘how many full-backs do we need?’ jokes, it would be worth considering how versatile he truly is and how he may be used in midfield – it’s not definitely a sign that one of Garbutt and/or Husband will be leaving the club, and the fact that Garbutt can play further forwards may imply that this is cover right across the left-hand side of our team.
James’ passing ability is clear from the above graphic, while he also trends highly for touches in the opposition box, expected goals (clear chances created) and – looking towards the possession category – progressive runs and passes.
Last season was without his most successful in professional football – in terms of form and fitness. After struggling to play regularly for various reasons, Reece James has flourished in the past two seasons, both in terms of appearances made and goals scored. In his career, James has netted 11 professional goals across 10 seasons; seven of these goals were scored last season which really puts into perspective the season he’s just had. Pool fans may recall the equaliser he scored in our 3-2 defeat at the Keepmoat, which was a tidy lofted finish over Chris Maxwell after a ball over the top. Whilst his move from LB to CDM will have had a positive impact here, it also highlights how much he flourished in Darren Moore’s system and how he took his game to the next level.
Based off his performance levels and current age, you would expect that James’ is very much in the peak of his professional career. Turning 28 in November, he will join Blackpool as the 3rd oldest squad member, only behind Chris Maxwell (31) and King Kenny (28).
The level of the coup can often be analysed by the reaction of the players former club, as well as that of rival clubs who were rumoured to be sniffing around the signature. The fact that the announcement triggered a lot of anger and upset from Sheffield Wednesday fans, who were said to be “on the verge” of bringing in Reece themselves, really highlights the difference in trajectory both clubs journey’s have been in the past couple of years.
View from the other side
Doncaster fans took to the Viking Chat message boards to discuss James’ departure after 2 seasons with the Rovers.
Good luck to him- great player and deserves his move- now let’s go find his replacement.
Can’t argue with him doing that and would lay no blame on us as a club either. Good luck Reece.
Brilliant deal for the lad! Safe guarded for the next 3 years minimum. Wish him all the best, he has been great for us over the last 2 years.
When James and Halliday played well, the team played well, both very good players when playing well, especially James, think he deserves Championships football, only let down was towards end of season, when he probably knew he was not staying.But several other players performances dropped too.Wish them both well, except if playing against us. P.s, Glad he’s not gone Wendies.
We are a bigger club. But they are in the Championship. So it is a great move for him. No problem. Hope he does well. I think he will.
It’s a good move for him, closer to his home base and a step up. I’m not so sure Blackpool will struggle as many expect, Critchley is a good coach and they have a bright side. They are 1000% a bigger club than us also, any way you slice it. But it’s the divisional difference that matters anyway.
Not sure we are a bigger club, historically or even now tbh. Good move for him. He’s from Lancashire as well so presumably it’s a good geographical move for him too.
Not sure we’re a bigger club to be honest. They’ve a better history. Been in prem. Similar fan base. Won more trophies
Historically Blackpool are a big club. Stanley Matthews etc.
(Gone off topic a little here but was very funny to see somebody claim Doncaster were a bigger club, only to be shot down by his own).
On the whole, perhaps the most enjoyable factor to this transfer is the cruel twist of fate that has led to us taking a player off Richie Wellens’ hands once again. He was Swindon Town manager 12 months ago when Keshi Anderson made the move to the seaside, and we won the battle for the signature of Jerry Yates. A relegation for Swindon and sacking at Salford City followed for Wellens while we charged to the Championship, and now he’s suffered the loss of another player to us as James makes the move across the Pennines. Let’s hope Reece can follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned two and truly make his mark on the football club!
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