David James: From Hero to Zero

england keeper david james

Player Profile: David James

Date of Birth: 01/08/1970

Height: 1.94 m (6 ft 4)

Position: Goalkeeper

National Team: England

International Caps: 53

Club Career

David James began his football career at Watford, joining as a trainee in 1986 after leaving school. He made his debut in the 1990/91 season when Watford’s first choice keeper left. He played in every league game that season and was chosen as the Player of the Season by the club for his excellent performances. He stayed at Watford for one more season before Liverpool bought him in the summer of 1992 for £1.25 million.

James debuted at Liverpool as a 21-year-old and was keen to quickly become their first-choice keeper. However, he endured a rocky start to life at Anfield and was dropped for Bruce Grobbelaar midway through his first season. He was forced to play second fiddle to Grobbelaar at the start of the 1993/94 season too, but when the Zimbabwean suffered an injury, James made the number 1 shirt his own. He would start a run of 213 consecutive appearances for Liverpool that lasted until 1998.

It was during his Liverpool spell that David James picked up the unfortunate moniker of ‘Calamity James’. Despite being a talented goalkeeper who was a strong shot stopper, he was prone to making errors and this led to his unfortunate nickname. During his time at Liverpool, James was part of a League Cup winning side in 1995, but when Liverpool bought Brad Friedel he lost his spot in the side and was sold to Aston Villa for £1.8 million in 1999.

His Villa career lasted for two years, with the England keeper making 85 appearances for the Birmingham club. He showed his impressive penalty saving skills in an FA Cup semi-final against Bolton Wanderers, when he saved two penalties on the way to victory. In the FA Cup final he showed the other side of his game as an error he made allowed Roberto Di Matteo to score the game’s only goal as Chelsea were crowned champions.

East London would be the next stop in James’ career, as he was transferred to West Ham United for £3.5 million. After a successful first season where the Hammers finished 7th in the Premier League, the 2002/03 season would see West Ham relegated to the Championship. James began the season in the second tier of English football with West Ham but in the January transfer window Manchester City bought him to replace David Seaman.

Manchester City would see one of the most unusual events of James’ career, when at the tail end of the final game of the season, City’s manager Stuart Pearce brought on his reserve goalkeeper and put David James up front. He played approximately 6 minutes in attack for City, but at the end of the game his career goal tally unfortunately remained at zero. The rest of his spell at the club was less eventful, and he remained the first-choice keeper until his move to Portsmouth before the 2006/07 season.

James would spend 4 seasons at Fratton Park and had a successful spell with the club. On a personal note he was named Player of the Season in his debut campaign with the Portsmouth. In the ‘07/08 season James would win his second major trophy as Pompey went to Wembley and were victorious in the FA Cup final. They would also reach the FA Cup final the following season with James wearing the captain’s armband, but didn’t manage to repeat the previous years success.

After his time at Portsmouth, James began to drop down the divisions, playing two seasons with Bristol City in the Championship and one with Bournemouth in League One. This was followed by a spell for IBV in the Icelandic league and a season for the Kerala Blasters in India, where he would hang up his playing boots.

David James was an impactful player during his time in the Premier League, which can be seen by his place in the league’s records. He is fourth in Premier League appearances with 572, and second in Premier League clean sheets with 169, both records which he held at points in his career. Despite his reputation for gaffes, he was clearly a strong goalkeeper who helped several teams to success.

International Career

David James won his first England cap as a Liverpool player in 1997 against Mexico in a friendly. He struggled to secure a place in the side, with David Seaman holding the number 1 shirt at the time. However, he was given a chance after the 2002 World Cup and he became England’s first choice keeper. He would play every game for his country at Euro 2004 but was replaced by Paul Robinson later on in the year after some poor performances.

He would continue to be selected for the England squad over the next few years, but Robinson or others would usually be preferred in the starting XI. In fact, he didn’t make many appearances until Fabio Capello took over the national side in 2007. James was his preferred keeper and he would play for England regularly when fit. He played in the 2010 World Cup and and kept two clean sheets before England’s defeat to Germany in the knockout stages.

Where is David James now?

After his player/coach spell at IBV and player/manager spell at Kerala, James left the game for some time, working in punditry and journalism. He returned to the Kerala Blasters as manager in January 2018 and helped to turn around the struggling side. However, they started slowly at the beginning of the next season and he was sacked in December of the same year. James is also a keen artist and DJ when he is not working as a pundit.

Did you know? Interesting facts about David James

– He credited his study of sports psychology techniques as something that helped him to improve his footballing and cut down on the errors he was making between the posts.

– In 2019 James was a contestant on the ballroom dancing show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. He was voted off of the show in the 5th round of the competition.

– James once blamed his trouble concentrating during matches on his habit of playing video games until late at night.