REECE JAMES feared success for Chelsea would mean curtains for his chances of shining at his boyhood club.

The highly-rated defender completed a 12-year journey by making his first-team debut in Wednesday’s 7-1 rout of Grimsby — and marked it with a goal.

But his big break had appeared a long way off when the Blues won the Europa League under Maurizio Sarri last May.

James, 19 — who was on loan at Wigan — said: “At the time I wasn’t sure because the team did well last season, winning the Europa League.

“When I found out I was staying I was happy. I’m glad I’m getting my chance.

“It’s a dream come true. I’ve played for this club since I was seven and it’s always what I wanted.

“When I was young I supported the club and still do. I looked up to Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard .”

Lamps is now the boss — and the man shattering the glass ceiling many kids felt existed at Stamford Bridge.

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Countless youngsters only got so far before being frozen out — as a succession of bosses went for big-money buys.

But Chelsea started their Carabao Cup win with ten academy graduates in the squad and finished it with six teenagers on the pitch.

James, Wigan’s Player of the Year last season, said: “That’s great for the academy, it shows the level there is very good.

“The atmosphere was buzzing. I’d played in front of a few crowds before but nothing like Stamford Bridge full.”

Billy Gilmour made a six-minute debut against Sheffield United last month and played the full 90 against Grimsby.

The midfielder, 18, said:  “The gaffer will ask you to train with the senior team if you’re doing really well — it doesn’t matter your age. It’s a great environment.”

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