Rob Page has tipped the Birmingham City teenager Jordan James to follow in the footsteps of his former club-mate Jude Bellingham and “go to the top” of the game. The 19-year-old excelled on his first competitive Wales start, Monday’s 2-0 victory in Latvia, and the manager said his emergence is a sign of the nation’s bright future.
James travelled to last year’s World Cup despite not being part of the 26-man squad and made his debut in Croatia at the start of this Euro 2024 qualifying campaign. The midfielder impressed on his first start, in a friendly against South Korea last week, and shone as Wales clinched a much-needed win in Riga.
“I hope everybody’s talking about JJ’s performance,” Page said. “Every time he has stepped up with us he has trained with personality and that is what I ask all the young players to do: make an impression, and he did from day one, just in his body language, how he is around the place, the way he trains.”
James, son of the former Hereford United and Burton defender Tony, joined Birmingham aged eight and played with Bellingham for various age-group teams before making his first-team debut aged 17 and 142 days, by which point Bellingham had left St Andrew’s for Borussia Dortmund. James twice represented England Under-20s before pledging his commitment to Wales. “When I stepped out on the pitch for England it didn’t feel the same,” James said in June.
Asked why he believes James can reach the elite level, Page replied: “He reads the game well, he’s athletic, he likes a tackle, he can pass the ball, he can head it … he ticks a lot of boxes; he has got everything. He is a great lad and he wants to work hard. He has got potential and we’re going to help him achieve that.”
Wales’s win in Latvia, courtesy of an Aaron Ramsey penalty and a stoppage-time strike by David Brooks, moves them level with third-placed Armenia in Group D but only the top two teams qualify automatically. It was Brooks’s first international goal since returning to action in March after cancer treatment.
Harry Wilson, Brooks’s longtime room-mate on Wales trips and a former Bournemouth teammate, revealed the players serenaded the winger with his song, to the tune of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, when he returned to the dressing room. “The fans the other day when he came on must have sung his song for a good 15-20 minutes,” Wilson said of the South Korea friendly. “They were singing it again at the end when we went to them to show our appreciation.
“I think he must have done an interview so he was the last one back in. We had it going as well and I think it shows what a massive member of this group he’s been and how much he’s been missed over the couple of years he’s been out of the squad. When the news broke that he had his illness we were on camp and it hit us hard. His body was completely shut down for a while.”