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Daniel James thinks winter World Cup will increase fears of injuries in build-up

Daniel James, left, says players will be more wary than usual of sustaining injury before this year’s World Cup (David Davies/PA)
Daniel James, left, says players will be more wary than usual of sustaining injury before this year’s World Cup (David Davies/PA)

Wales forward Daniel James believes the timing of this year’s World Cup finals will increase players’ fears of missing the tournament through injury.

Qatar 2022 starts in the middle of European football’s domestic season, with Senegal facing the Netherlands in the opening game in Al Thumama on November 21.

Both England and Wales launch their Group B campaign against Iran and the USA respectively later the same day, 11 days after the last round of Premier League fixtures on November 12.

Leeds winger James, who reported back for his club’s pre-season testing at Leeds Beckett University on Monday, said: “It’s a tough one because we’ve got a Premier League game something like the week before (the World Cup).

“So I think everyone is concentrating on being fit for that tournament. It’s going to be a little bit weird being in the middle of the season.

“You go from playing in the Premier League to the next week playing in a World Cup. There’s no time for a game in between there.

“It’s a strange one. Usually you probably have two or three weeks before you go away, but in that last (Premier League) game going into the World Cup, players are going to be wary of it.

“But you’ve just got to concentrate on each game that comes and keep yourself as fit as you can.”

James described his summer so far as “amazing” after Leeds secured top-flight survival on the last day, two weeks before Wales qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in 64 years with their play-off win against Ukraine.

“Yeah, what an amazing summer,” he said. “To qualify for the World Cup, for the players, for the country, having not qualified for 64 years.

“We’re one of the smallest nations to ever qualify for the World Cup, so it’s a massive achievement for us all.

Daniel James is looking forward to the World Cup
Daniel James is looking forward to the World Cup (Tim Goode/PA)

“I wouldn’t say it’s a one-off. A lot of people have written us off. We were in that category when we qualified for the Euros.

“I wasn’t involved then, but we’ve put ourselves on the world stage now and no-one can knock us off that.”

James, who arrived at Leeds from Manchester United for £25million last summer, no longer sees himself as an out-and-out winger after playing in a central striking role for Leeds under Jesse Marsch last season.

When asked which role he preferred, the 24-year-old added: “If I just say one position then it’s not going to improve me as a player.

“Playing a lot of different positions last year has really helped me come along, on and off the field, how I see the game, mentally as well.

“So I’m happy to play anywhere across the front four. I’d play right-back if he wanted me to, but every position up there.”