Exclusive interview: The making of Daniel James
After following in the footsteps of his idol, Ryan Giggs, and scoring in front of the Stretford End, Daniel James is living his dream at Manchester United. But none of this would have happened if he had followed through with a desire to quit football at the age of 12.
Luckily for Reds supporters, Daniel’s mind was thankfully changed and he went on to ascend the youth ranks in East Yorkshire before completing a move to Swansea City. His performances with the Championship club caught the eye of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the rest, as they say, is history.
Looking back on his seven years in the Hull Academy and how that education developed his game, James openly admits he almost called it a day.
“At the start, when I got to nearly 12 years old, I actually nearly gave up football,” he says.
“I wasn’t enjoying it.
“I was telling my mum and dad: ‘I’d rather be playing other football.’ Or I was missing out with my mates. I was training most nights and was missing out. I was coming back from school and wanting to go out with my mates, but I had to go training. I had a serious meeting with the coaches at Hull [for them] to say: ‘No, we think you’ve got the ability and we want you to stay on here’.
“Thankfully, from there, I did stay on. But there were times when I wasn’t enjoying it, but I think as a person I developed a lot, especially when I went to play my first game for Wales when I was 14. The first games were against Belgium and Switzerland, and that changed me as well because I used to play striker at Hull, and when I went away with Wales, I played as a winger. I think that’s why I’ve come to be a winger now. Otherwise, I think I’d play in a different position.”
James feels that period of uncertainty helped him a lot as both a player and person.
“Definitely,” he says.
“Obviously, I did enjoy my football – it was just that I was missing out with friends. But they are the sacrifices that sometimes you have to make as a footballer, to make it. I know nowadays there’s a lot more.
“I was training three times a week, where most boys now are training every day. That’s the sacrifice you’ve got to make. It is difficult, especially for parents as well.”
Order your copy of Inside United magazine to read the full Q&A with James.