Alex James (footballer)
Alex James (right) playing in France
|Full name||Alexander Wilson James|
|Date of birth||14 September 1901|
|Place of birth||Mossend, Lanarkshire, Scotland|
|Date of death||1 June 1953(aged 51)|
|Place of death||London, England|
|Playing position||Inside forward|
|1925–1929||Preston North End||147||(53)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Alexander Wilson "Alex" James (14 September 1901 – 1 June 1953) was a Scottish international footballer. He is most noted as a play making lynch pin of Arsenal with whom he won six senior trophies in the first seven seasons of the 1930s. James played as a deep lying creative midfielder providing the link between defence and attack. He was famed for his outstanding footballing intelligence and supreme ball control and passing. James was described by Tom Finney as "an inspiration, pure magic" with his style of play having led to comparisons with that of Dennis Bergkamp of modern times. His rheumatism meant he wore "baggy" shorts to hide the long johns he wore to keep warm; the baggy appearance became his trademark.
Born in Mossend, Lanarkshire, James was schooled at the Bellshill Academy in Bellshill wheren he begun a long friendship with Hughie Gallacher. James started his youth footballing career with local clubs, Bellshield Athletic and Ashfield.
Alex James joined Raith Rovers in 1922. He spent three seasons at Starks Park recording nearly a hundred League appearances. His best league finish was fourth in 1924 sandwiched between the ninth place finishes on either side. He then transferred to Preston North End for £3,000 in 1925.
Preston North End
Alex James spent four years at the Second Division side scoring 55 goals in 157 appearances. Preston twice were in contention for promotion finishing sixth then fourth in the middle two of James' four seasons there. However towards the end of his stay there he fell into several disputes with the club's management, partly over wages – at the time, the Football League operated a maximum wage of £8 a week – and also because Preston refused to release James for international duty with Scotland.
Alex James left Preston for Herbert Chapman's Arsenal in 1929 for £8,750, making his debut against Leeds United on 31 August 1929 two weeks before his 28th birthday. In order to circumvent the maximum wage rules, Arsenal arranged it so that his employment at the club was supplemented by a £250-a-year "sports demonstrator" job at Selfridges, the London department store. James had an unremarkable first season at Arsenal partly due to the recovery from injuries he had accrued at Preston. However his first season at Arsenal brought the first of six trophies in seven seasons there. He played in Arsenal's 1930 FA Cup Final win against Huddersfield Town scoring the first in a 2-0 win to give Arsenal their first major trophy.
Over time he settled into his role and became part of the dominant side of English football in 1930s. Playing so deep as a supporting player, he scored relatively few goals for Arsenal – only 27 in 261 appearances – but created many times that number. James's passing and vision supplied the ammunition that David Jack, Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake and Jack Lambert all put into the net. James orchestrated Arsenal to their first ever First Division Championship win in 1930–31.
The defending champions started the 1931–32 season badly largely through missing goals from injured Jack Lambert. However as Lambert returned to goalscoring form Arsenal enjoyed a good run to regain ground on leaders Everton. After their FA Cup semi final win they harboured hopes of a league and cup double. They were now only three points behind Everton with a game in hand. However only two minutes into the next game at West Ham United, James suffered serious ligament damage. He missed the rest of the league season and without their play maker Arsenal won only one more league game. Arsenal finished second to Everton. They also ran up in the 1932 FA Cup Final against Newcastle United. James had been passed fit before injuring himself in a pre-match photo call for the press. Without him, Arsenal lost 2-1, albeit thanks to a highly controversial goal from Newcastle's Jack Allen.
He recovered to help Arsenal to a second title in 1932-33. Arsenal scored a club record 118 goals in the League that season. Another spate of injuries marred James's 1933-34 season. Arsenal retained their title but scoring far fewer (75) goals in the process. With James recovered they won a fourth championship, and their third in a row in 1934–35 in style. Ted Drake scored 42 league goals that season with many of them supplied by James.
In 1935-36 he won his last trophy, a second FA Cup winners' medal. James captained Arsenal to their 1-0 win over Sheffield United. With age and injuries taking their toll in the last two seasons of his career, Alex James retired from playing in the summer of 1937.
Despite his form for his clubs, he won just eight caps for Scotland. This was partly due to Preston's reluctance to release him for international matches. He made his international debut on 31 October 1925 against Wales which Scotland won 3-0. His short international career included an appearance for the legendary "Wembley Wizards" team that thrashed England 5-1 at Wembley in 1928, with James scoring twice. The Wembley Wizards game is one of six where James and Hughie Gallacher were both selected to play – Scotland won all six. All four of James' international goals came while playing alongside Gallacher.
In the summer of 1939, James went to Poland, invited by the Polish Football Association (PZPN). He spent there 6 weeks (30 June – 11 August 1939) helping the Polish coach Józef Kałuża and members of the national team. He taught them modern tactics and also led several training sessions. James also played in one or two friendly games of Warsaw's teams.
In 1949 he was invited back to Arsenal to coach the club's youth sides. However he died quite suddenly from cancer in 1953 at the age of 51.  He was survived by his wife and three children.
In popular culture
- First Division: Winner 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, Runners Up Medal 1932
- FA Cup: Winner 1930, 1936, Runners Up Medal 1932
- English Football Hall of Fame:2005
- Scottish Football Hall of Fame: 2005
- Raith Rovers Hall of Fame: 2013
- Alex James at scottishfa.co.uk
- "Arsenal players: Best 11 of all time". Telegraph.co.uk.
- "Alex James: Profile". Arsenal.com.
- "Hughie Gallacher: Career Profile". QOSFC.com.
- 'The Queens 1919–2004',Iain McCartney on Creedon Publications
- "Alex James: Scottish hall of Fame". Scottish Football Hall of Fame.co.uk.
- "Alex James - The Legend". Fife Today.co.uk.
- "Alex James: Hall of Fame". National Football Museum.
- A page of Polish Sports daily "Przeglad Sportowy" from Thursday, 15 June 1939 describing James' schedule in Poland[verification needed]
- "Alex James's Bio". Spartacus Educational.com.
- "Stanley Holloway — With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm". Last.fm.
- The Times on Alex James and Dennis Bergkamp
- Alex James statistics on Gunnermania
- "Alex James". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
- Alex James- Life of A Football Legend by John Harding available from DB Publishing
- Harris, Jeff (1995). Hogg, Tony, ed. Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.