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Proudly sitting in Chris James' London home is the All Whites shirt from his international debut against Brazil.

On it are the signatures of several Brazilians who played that day, including Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Kaka. For Fulham midfielder James, it represents not only an incredible introduction to the All Whites but also what will never be for a youngster who made almost 30 appearances for England at age-group level.

With that 10-minute spell against Brazil went any chance of the 19-year-old ever playing for England at senior level but James was realistic enough to know this is something only the best (and Peter Crouch) get to experience.

For every Aaron Lennon, whom James played alongside in England youth teams and went to Germany for the World Cup, there are hundreds of Rory Fallons.

Fallon, son of former All Whites coach Kevin Fallon, had played youth football for England but pledged his allegiance to New Zealand. By then, however, it was too late. Crucially, he was older than 20, the age by which players must confirm their international loyalties. James, who qualified for England through his mother, would not make the same mistake.

"Playing for England was special for me and my family but I'm a New Zealander and I saw no reason why I should turn my back on my country," James said, with a distinctly English accent from London in the lead-up to New Zealand's match with Charlton early this morning.

"I realised how hard it is for an under-18 player just to step up to England under-21s, let alone the senior national team. That was part of the reason [to commit to the All Whites] as well. But the main reason was the opportunities with New Zealand and the games coming up.

"It feels right and I have no regrets at all. It was definitely one of the best decisions of my career so far."

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert approached James more than 12 months ago about the prospect of playing for the country of his birth. Not only will James be involved in next year's World Cup qualifying campaign but he's young enough to play at under-23 (Olympic) and under-20 level.

In just his second All Whites training camp, he's already caught Herbert's eye as a player who could become a midfield lynchpin in future years.

"He's a great kid who's added a spark to the side and it's great we got him," Herbert said. "Technically he's very good and he's got the potential to play at a very good level. Playing at international level will only enhance that."

James has learned his trade in arguably the best place in the world. Only six weeks after leaving New Zealand's shores as a 13-year-old, he had a trial with Arsenal, which went badly, before he was signed by Fulham on a schoolboy contract.

Now on a fulltime contract, he has his sights set on emulating fellow All White Simon Elliott by breaking into the Fulham first team this season or, if that doesn't happen, being loaned to a lower division.

New Zealand Knights boss Paul Nevin, who worked with Fulham's academy and reserve teams for eight years, tried to sign James but it would have been a hard sell for a player who has his sights set on the Premiership. "I want to play at the highest level and I want to stay here [in England]," he said.

James is looking to the future but it's hard to escape his recent past, his debut against Brazil. "That was a magnificent experience, especially for my first cap for New Zealand," he enthused. "That's one I will never forget.

"I made a promise to myself that even though it was Brazil, I'd always keep my first New Zealand shirt. I am definitely going to frame that one."

It's likely to be the first of many.