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Alex James
Personal information
Full name Alexander Wilson James
Date of birth 14 September 1901(1901-09-14)
Place of birth    Mossend, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Date of death    1 June 1953 (aged 51)
Place of death    London, England
Playing position Inside forward
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Raith Rovers
Preston North End
098 (27)
147 (53)
231 (36)   
National team
1925–1932 Scotland 008 0(4)[1]

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Alexander Wilson James (14 September 1901 – 1 June 1953) was a Scottish footballer, and is most noted for his success with Arsenal, where he is regarded as one of the club's greatest players of all time. James played as an inside forward, as a supporting player for the main strikers. He was famed for the excellent quality of his passing and supreme ball control, leading many modern-day comparisons with Arsenal forward Dennis Bergkamp. His rheumatism meant he wore "baggy" shorts to hide the long johns he wore to keep warm; the baggy appearance became his trademark.


Early years

Born in Mossend, Lanarkshire and brought up in nearby Bellshill where he was a boyhood friend of Hughie Gallacher.[2] James started his career with local youth clubs.

Raith Rovers

Alex James joined Raith Rovers in 1922. He spent three seasons at Starks Park, recording nearly a hundred League appearances, before moving 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 appearance; 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. 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, in part due to the recovery from injuries he had accrued playing in the Second Division; however, 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 helped Arsenal to their first ever First Division Championship win in 1930-31, but was injured during the title race in 1931-32; without him, Arsenal finished second behind Everton and lost the 1932 FA Cup Final against Newcastle United. James had been passed fit before injuring himself in a pre-match photocall 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, as Arsenal scored a club record 118 goals in the League that season. Another spate of injuries marred James's 1933-34, as Arsenal retained their title but scoring far fewer (75) goals in the process, but with James recovered they won a fourth, and their third in a row in 1934-35 in style, with Ted Drake scoring 42 league goals that season, many of them supplied by James. The following season he won a second FA Cup winners' medal, captaining the Arsenal team to their 1-0 win over Sheffield United.


Despite his form for his clubs, he won just eight caps for Scotland, 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, and 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.[3] All four of James' international goals came when we was playing alongside Gallacher.

Later years

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. During World War II he served in the Royal Artillery, and after the war he became a journalist, as well as running a football pools competition. In 1949 he was invited back to Arsenal to coach the club's youth sides, before his sudden death from cancer four years later at the age of 51. James was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game. He is also mentioned in the 1930s song "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm".

In the summer of 1939, James went to Poland, invited by the Polish Football Association (PZPN). He spent there 6 weeks (June 30 - August 11, 1939), helping the Polish coach Jozef Kaluza and members of the national team, teaching them the modern tactics, also leading several training sessions. James also played in one or two friendly games of Warsaw's teams.[4]

External links


  • Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.  
  1. ^ Alex James profile at SFA
  2. ^ 'The Queens 1919-2004',Iain McCartney on Creedon Publications
  3. ^ Hughie Gallacher career profile
  4. ^ A page of Polish Sports daily "Przeglad Sportowy" from Thursday, June 15, 1939 describing James' schedule in Poland

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