Lauren James joined her older brother on the pitch in Porto last season to celebrate Chelsea winning the Champions League final
For Nigel James, football is a family affair. But when he is not watching son Reece or daughter Lauren play for Chelsea, he is managing his own coaching business and helping young people thrive.
He looks after players from ages five to 18, and he set it up after his own football career stalled, following spells with Woking and Aldershot.
Growing up, full-back Reece, now 21, and striker Lauren, 19, as well as their elder brother Joshua, were enrolled in academies. They both played in older age groups, Reece joining the Under-9s at Fulham when he was seven before going on to Chelsea and Lauren playing for Arsenal Under-17s aged 13.
‘Not many families had the contact time they had’
Reece James has earned 10 caps for England
Nigel James says exposure to more coaching and equipment helped their development from the back garden.
“They played every day,” he tells BBC Sport. “If they weren’t playing with friends after school, they were playing with each other. There are not many families that had the contact time they had; they had a field and all the equipment they needed. They had poles, goals, and football after football because I was a coach.
“There were times I coached them, but if I didn’t, things were set up so that they went out and repeated what we’d done in a session, working on things. There might be times where Reece would be outside crossing a ball for Joshua to head or volley; he might have 50 balls to cross, and this is at a young age.”
Reece played everywhere across the pitch through the ranks at Chelsea, but his love of sport also led him to try his hand at cricket.
“Reece used to play up front at Chelsea; he’d play in centre midfield,” Nigel recalls. “We used to play games against other soccer schools and he’d always play in defence, but when he was mucking about at home, he’d always go in goal. At one stage as an under-9, he was probably better than any other player as a goalkeeper, that is how good he was.
“He had to have the best boots and the best goalie gloves. He loved cricket, too; he wanted the best bats and pads. He’d…