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David James

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David Benjamin James (born 1 August 1970, Welwyn Garden City, England) is an English professional footballer of Malawian descent who currently plays for Portsmouth in the Premier League. He has played as a goalkeeper for a number of English clubs, and has won 34 caps[1] for the England national football team and won the 1995 League Cup with Liverpool.


Club career


James signed as a trainee with Watford in 1989 and helped the club to win the FA Youth Cup.[2] He made his league debut on the 25 August 1990 in a 21 defeat at the hands of Millwall at Vicarage Road. His performances at Watford resulted in an England under-21 call-up for a match against the Republic of Ireland, in which he kept a clean sheet as England won 30.[3] He then maintained a regular place in the under-21 team, earning ten caps in total. At club level, James made 98 first-team appearances for Watford before he was signed for 1m by Liverpool on 6 July 1992.


James made his Liverpool debut on 16 August 1992 in the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. Things got worse for the youngster and after conceding 20 goals in 11 games the following season, he was dropped by Liverpool boss Graeme Souness.

James gained a recall and kept his first clean sheet for the Merseysiders on 31 January 1993 as the Reds beat Arsenal 1-0 in a Premier Division fixture at Highbury. The clean sheet was made that much sweeter as James saved a penalty from the Gunners Paul Merson. When Souness was replaced at the helm of the Anfield club, James found favour under Souness' successor Roy Evans, and became the regular No. 1 in the Liverpool team of the 1990s. During this time, he rose to fame together with Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler, all of whom were termed the "Spice Boys" - a derogatory term using the comparison to the Spice Girls, which was used by those who alleged the Liverpool team of that decade were more focused on partying than winning games.

Despite winning the League Cup in 1995 when Liverpool beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Wembley, Liverpool's side at the time had failed to oust rivals Manchester United as England's premier club, due to the team's poor defensive record coupled with James' occasional high-profile mistakes. In 1997, he publicly put down his spate of errors to an overindulgence of playing computer games that in turn affected his concentration. His reputation for making mistakes, especially in terms of collecting crosses, soon earned him the nickname within the media of Calamity James. This nickname is a pun on Calamity Jane.

With the arrival of American goalkeeper Brad Friedel, his place at Liverpool became less assured, and on 23 June 1999, after 277 games for Liverpool, he was sold to Aston Villa for 1.8m.[4]

Aston Villa

James' Villa debut came on 7 August 1999 as James kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 league win over Newcastle United at St James' Park. His inconsistency continued; although he did prove to be the hero in saving penalties against Bolton Wanderers in the 2000 FA Cup semi-final, but then was at fault for Chelsea's winning goal in the ensuing final, the last to be staged at the old Wembley. He is still popular amongst Villa fans and he receives a good reception from the Holte End when playing at Villa Park.

After just 2 years which saw him make 85 appearances James moved to West Ham United for 3.5M on 11 July 2001, signing a four year contract.[5] However, a serious knee injury sustained while on international duty prevented James from playing for West Ham for several months.[6]

West Ham United

James eventually made his debut for the Hammers on 24 November 2001 in the 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Upton Park. While at West Ham his consistency improved, but he was unable to help the club avert relegation from the Premier League in 2003.

After 102 appearances for the Londoners James was on the move again; on 14 January 2004, he returned to the Premier League, signing for Manchester City for an undisclosed fee,[7][8] replacing David Seaman, who retired earlier that week. He made his debut for City on 17 January in a 1-1 league draw with Blackburn Rovers at the City of Manchester Stadium.[9]

Manchester City

At the time of James' arrival, Manchester City were enduring a long winless streak. In his 17 City appearances that season, James finished on the winning side only four times, but twice prevented defeat by saving penalties in matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City.[10] He was also given a new lease of life by Stuart Pearce, his manager at Manchester City, who played him as a striker for the last few minutes of a game in the 2004-05 season.

On 10 August 2006 he stated that he needed to leave Manchester City to be closer to his children; James had separated from his wife and felt detached from his children who lived in London. A move to Portsmouth would allow him to be closer to his children. The following day Manchester City confirmed they had accepted a bid from Portsmouth.[11]


On 12 August 2006, James completed his 1.2 million move to Portsmouth, where he signed a two year deal.[12] He made his debut 8 days later on 19 August in the 3-0 win over Blackburn at Fratton Park. James went on to keep clean sheets in each of his first five appearances for the club[13] (and six in his first eight games overall). At the half way stage of the 06/07 season many pundits stated that James had been the best-performing goalkeeper in the Premiership and manager Harry Redknapp called him "by far the best keeper I've worked with". His consistent performances have led to calls for him to be reinstated to the England squad.

In November 2006 James, long known for experimenting with his hairstyle[14], was mildly ridiculed on the BBC's Match Of The Day programme, for wearing his hair in a style similar to that of the character of Clark Kent, as played by Christopher Reeve in the first four Superman movies. He has explored the field of sport psychology to improve his skills as a goalkeeper; he has claimed that psychology study has helped him become better at saving penalty kicks.

On 22 April 2007, James kept his 142nd Premiership clean sheet, with Portsmouth in a 0-0 draw against his former club Aston Villa, breaking the record of 141 previously held by David Seaman.[15] James has also made the most league appearances[16] of any goalkeeper since the formation of the Premiership (470 as of 08-04-07) over 15 seasons (Nigel Martyn with 372 is the next highest) and conceded the highest number of goals [17]. If he continues to play full time next season, he will be the third player (after Gary Speed and Ryan Giggs) to cross the 500 Premiership Game threshold.

On 11 May 2007, James signed a one-year extension on his contract, which will keep him at Fratton Park until 2009.[18]

James then played a role in Portsmouth's defeat of Liverpool in the pre-season Barclays Asia Trophy 2007 saving two penalties in the ensuing shoot-out.

International career

After making one England under-21 appearance whilst at Watford, James made his full debut for Glenn Hoddle's England in a friendly against Mexico on 29 March 1997 as a Liverpool player, a game in which he kept his first international clean sheet as England beat Mexico 2-0 with goals from Teddy Sheringham and Jamo's clubmate Robbie Fowler. For several years, however, he had to play understudy to England's regular keeper, David Seaman. When Seaman was dropped after making a mistake against FYR of Macedonia in 2002, James became the new England No. 1. He retained his place in the England team even after West Ham's relegation to the First Division in 2003, and was the only player from outside a top flight league to win an England cap between 1999 (Michael Gray) and 2007 (David Nugent). He went on to play in all of England's matches in Euro 2004.

However, James has not started a competitive match for England since an error in a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw against Austria in September 2004, his place being taken by Tottenham's Paul Robinson.

James came on as a half time substitute and conceded all four goals in the 4-1 drubbing England suffered at the hands of Denmark during a summer friendly on 17 August 2005 - their worst defeat in 25 years. However, James still remained part of the England squad, and was selected as the second-choice goalkeeper behind Robinson for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, though he did not play.

After a fantastic season at Portsmouth, England boss Steve McClaren recalled the former England number 1 for the friendly with Germany at the New Wembley Stadium on 22 August 2007.

James subsequently played the whole of the second half of England's 2-1 defeat to Germany, coming on as a substitute for Robinson, and did not concede any goals. In so doing, became the first Portsmouth player to play for the senior England team since Mark Hateley in 1984.

Personal life

James was raised in Welwyn Garden City, attending the Sir Frederic Osbourn School.[19]

In addition to his footballing career, James has gained attention for modelling assignments, first with Giorgio Armani in 1995,[20] and with H&M in 2005.[21]

During the 2003 close season, James was a guest at the training camp of American football team, the Miami Dolphins, where he worked out with the team and studied their training and conditioning methods.[22] This led to speculation that he is keen on a coaching role after he retires[23].

In 2005 James visited the southeastern African nation of Malawi to help raise AIDS awareness.[24]. He has since set up The David James Foundation in order to help farmers in Malawi develop better farming practices.[25] Since 2006 James has written a fortnightly column for The Observer.[26]

James is divorced, and has four children by former wife Tanya. The divorce was subject to tabloid attention, which included a Mail on Sunday interview in which Tanya discussed the breakdown of the marriage.[27]

References and Notes

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