“A lot of people ask me that,” James says. “But it wasn’t hard because I was coming back to a place that I love and where I was playing. It wasn’t like I was out of the team and I wanted to really leave. I think it’s in the past now, I am really happy here and looking forward to what will come.”
Talks are on-going over a new contract at Swansea. “I think the negotiations are taking place now,” James says, rapping his knuckles on the table to ‘touch wood’. “I am just waiting on that, I’m happy with it and am letting my agent and the club deal with it and hopefully it happens soon… I want to get into the Premier League and I’d love to do it with Swansea. There may be a time (when I have to leave) but that’s in the future.”
Given this is James’ breakthrough season the growing interest – Premier League clubs are taking note – shows the impact he has made, something Swansea’s impressive manager Graham Potter has stressed. “The gaffer mentions it a lot,” James says, reflecting on how far he has already come which includes being capped for Wales in the friendly against Albania last November.
“Last season I went to Shrewsbury and it didn’t really work out. I didn’t play and I was quite down on myself. My expectations were high on the back of a good season with the (Swansea) under-23s but I didn’t get a game at all and came back early. I grounded myself again.
“I got my FA Cup debut (in the 8-1 win against Notts County in February 2018) and scored and that kind of lifted me a bit. Obviously I wanted Swansea to stay in the Premier League but when they did go down I did think ‘am I going to get my chance?’
“But after pre-season I hadn’t played loads and was thinking ‘maybe not now’. I knew Yeovil in League Two were interested and I said to the gaffer ‘what do you think of me going on loan there?’ and he just said ‘I feel you can be a player here, you can do something for the team’.
“At the time I thought ‘is he just saying that to keep me happy?’ But he chucked me in at Birmingham, first game, a tough game and I came on because he believed in me. Maybe people thought I wasn’t physical enough but I made my first start against Ipswich (last October) and that set me.”
Adversity has meant Swansea have turned to youth. Twelve players have made their league debuts with James, who moved to Swansea from Hull City when he was 16, Oli McBurnie, Connor Roberts and Joe Roden all doing well. “We are a young team, a developing team and I saw a stat the other day that showed we had the most players Under-23 with the most minutes in the Championship – by a good 3,000-4,000 minutes,” James says.