MAURICIO POCHETTINO admitted Chelsea are to blame for Reece James snubbing England.
The right-back, 23, was surprisingly left out of Gareth Southgate's latest Three Lions squad named yesterday.
England face Malta and North Macedonia in Euro 2024 qualifiers next week, having already secured their spot in Germany next summer.
And Blues boss Poch took responsibility for James' omission – despite the defender's recent return from injury.
James suffered a hamstring injury in training in August and was sidelined for two months.
The new Chelsea captain made his comeback as a late sub against Arsenal on October 21 then came on in the Brentford defeat.
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He managed an hour as Chelsea beat Blackburn in the Carabao Cup and 77 minutes of Monday's chaotic 4-1 victory at Tottenham.
But he is still not back to full match fitness and his club were keen to manage him closely in the final stages of his recovery.
Pochettino said: "It’s never the decision of the player.
"The medical staff, sports science and coaching staff always take the decisions, not the player.
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"Reece is desperate to go to the national team and I only think this will be good for the national team and Chelsea also.
"But it’s not a decision by him, he is desperate to go."
Southgate confessed he had planned to call up James for the final squad of 2023 to reintegrate him back into the side – especially after he missed the World Cup through injury and now with the pressure off the upcoming games.
And though the national team gaffer admitted he "understood" Chelsea and James' decision, he also said it was a "risk" amid the strength in depth in his position.
Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier were included in the 26-man England squad named by Southgate on Thursday, with Trent Alexander-Arnold in and classed as a midfielder.
Southgate said: "I was hoping to call up Reece James but he doesn't feel he's quite ready.
"I understand that, he's had a long path back from a number of injuries. He's probably a bit cautious in that respect, but I can understand why.
"There is [competition for places] and that's the risk. He's only got one more squad before the Euros. So he knows that. We've got belief in what he can do.
"He completely understands [the risk]. He has only really been able to be with us in March for the first part of the camp. But that's been because he keeps having these moments where he breaks down.
"He was very keen to make clear, 'Look I don't want you to think I don't want to be there'. We had a really good long conversation and exchange of messages after that as well. But I'm very understanding.
"We want to have a fit Reece James that can play consecutive games, because we can only take 23 to a finals.
"Physical reliability is going to be really important. I think we will always manage a player as well as we can but there is a reality around his training at the moment. He plays and there's a couple of days' recovery.
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"We would have loved to have him with us, don't get me wrong. But I'm perfectly calm with the conversation."
James' Chelsea team-mate Raheem Sterling was overlooked once more by Southgate while Ben White also failed to convince Southgate he deserved a call-up.
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