James out to make difference for Birmingham & Wales

Published on: 27 November 2023

Jordan James has already racked up 74 first-team appearances with Birmingham City - mostly from the bench

Birmingham City midfielder Jordan James is looking to kick on from Saturday's match-winning super sub heroics to turn this into a memorable season for him, club and country.

Inside eight days, James went through contrasting footballing emotions.

First he suffered the frustration of personally playing well for Wales but missing out on automatic qualification for Euro 2024, only to end on a high.

For the third time in his career, James came off the bench to score a goal. But this one, an 81st-minute strike to beat the Championship's bottom club Sheffield Wednesday, was different.

It was in front of the home Tilton End at St Andrew's, it was his first winning goal and, maybe most important of all, it earned his latest manager, Wayne Rooney, his first victory as Blues boss.

And it nearly did not happen at all, after Sheffield Wednesday keeper Cameron Dawson blocked his first effort from Jay Stansfield's cross.

Instead, showing the composure of a natural finisher, James kept commendable cool, rounded the Owls keeper and slid home a left-foot shot with such 'sang froid' it belied the fact that he is only 19 years of age.

"The gaffer told me after that I gave him a heart attack at the end there," he told BBC Radio WM.

"It's always nice to get on the scoresheet and especially in front of the Tilton. For someone like me who's come all the way through at this club, it was great to be able to do it."

    Blues finally earn first win under RooneyRooney unworried by poor start

It was blessed relief, though, for Rooney, the frustrated Blues fans and for James himself, after being left out of the starting line-up.

He had made three successive Birmingham starts going into the latest international break, in the middle of which he was taken off against Ipswich Town with his side 2-0 up, only to see the visitors come back and rescue a point. He then played two full games for Wales.

The disappointing 1-1 draw in Armenia, which left automatic qualification out of Wales' hands, was followed by a much-improved performance against Turkey in Cardiff last Tuesday.

It was a night when the result ultimately proved immaterial, but it was a game Wales might have won but for a string of contentious refereeing decisions all going against them.

On the back of all that, Rooney started James on the bench.

"I love playing for Wales," said James. "And being able to do that again was brilliant. But there was a lot of emotion last week, and the gaffer said he wanted to give me a rest and get me back into the right state of mind."

'We showed we can still fight until the very last minute'

James did just that, knew the full importance of that goal against the Owls - and he now wants to build on it, preferably a little further back where he feels he plays his best.

"We knew Sheffield Wednesday were not in the greatest form. But nor were we, and we knew we just had to get the three points," he added.

"We've struggled to get points, but we've showed we can still fight until the very last minute."

It was not only the first time Blues had won since previous boss John Eustace was sacked, but the last time they had come from behind to win was Eustace's last game in charge, the 3-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion in October.

And, although he was happy to play his part, James does not see himself coming up trumps like that every week, nor has he set any season goal targets.

"I've been playing in the deeper role that I feel comfortable with, but I've also got that in my game that I can score," he said.

"The way the new gaffer wants to play suits me and I really feel I can impact games more.

"I feel the way we want to play can really work under Wayne Rooney, that we can hurt teams and win more games."

Jordan James does not turn 20 until 2 July 2024 - halfway through next summer's Euros in Germany

If he is happy playing under a former England star like Rooney, James is even more pleased by the trust shown in him by his international manager Rob Page, with Wales.

"Rob Page has been unbelievable with me," he said. "He's trusted me from the first minute I walked through the door and I've repaid him. I'm putting in good performances.

"I feel confident when I play for Wales and it's a dream come true whenever I step on the pitch for Wales."

He is not even daunted by the size of the task facing him and his compatriots as they set out on the inevitably taxing journey that the post-Gareth Bale era was always destined to be.

After all, while Blues had 20,941 in on Saturday, their second biggest crowd of the season at St Andrew's, that was not as big a stage as the 32,291 he played in front of at the Cardiff City Stadium against Turkey.

"I thrive on that," James said. "As footballers, you want to be the main man. You want to be in that spotlight where it depends on you.

"We've got the play-offs to come in March which I'm now looking forward to - and I'm hoping to kick on from here now with Blues and play more games."

Jordan James was talking to BBC Radio WM's Richard Wilford

Source: bbc.com

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