Why You’ll Like Him
With over 20 years of experience, David James has seen it all.
There isn’t much that will faze him after 690 club appearances and 50 international caps. He also has the record for the most Premier League appearances and the most Premier League clean sheets. Goalkeepers often improve with age, and James is a perfect example of that.
Why You’ll Hate Him
He’s prone to the odd blunder.
James can be pretty forgetful. Like sometimes he’ll come out to collect a cross, but forget to catch the ball. Or other times he’ll pass the ball from the back, but forget which color shirt his teammates are wearing. Unfortunately for goalkeepers, one mistake can cost your team the match, and that’s something James has learned first-hand on several occasions. You don’t get the nickname "Calamity" James for nothing.
He’s also in a heated battle with David Beckham for the title of "Most Ridiculous Haircuts in a Professional Soccer Player’s Career". Odds makers have James as a 5/1 favorite to take that trophy home, and he will probably be sporting a new look in South Africa to further boost his chances.
Club Teams: Watford (1989-1992), Liverpool (1992-1999), Aston Villa (1999-2001), West Ham United (2001-2004), Manchester City (2004-2006), Portsmouth (2006-2010)
National Team Debut: March 29th, 1997 in a friendly against Mexico
World Cup(s): 2002, 2006
James started his professional career with Watford in 1989, when current England teammate Aaron Lennon was just 2 years old. He really made his mark when signing for Liverpool in 1992, where he managed 216 appearances and won his first senior trophy, the 1995 English league cup.
After a seven-year stint at Anfield, he bounced around several Premier League clubs before finally landing at Portsmouth. It was there that James would enjoy some of the best form in his career under the management of Harry Redknapp, and he helped the club to its first ever FA Cup trophy in 2008. Sadly, due to the out-of-control debt at Pompey, the club went into administration last season and was relegated from the Premier League. Because James’ contract with Portsmouth was up in May, his club future is still up in the air, which means that on top of everything else, the World Cup could serve as James’ last audition for other teams before next season.
For most of his career, David James had to play second fiddle to Arsenal’s David Seaman in the England set-up. However, in 2002 Seaman lost his spot in the team and James stepped in to take it. He went on to start all of England’s matches at Euro 2004, but couldn’t prevent the team from being knocked out on penalties by Portugal in the quarter-finals. Just a few months later James was dropped from the squad entirely after a "Calamity" special against Austria during a World Cup qualifying match, and Paul Robinson became England’s new number 1. He didn’t get another legitimate sniff at the starting spot until Fabio Capello was named manager of the squad in 2008.
James has really benefited from a lack of competition at the goalkeeper position over the last couple years. While Scott Carson, Paul Robinson, and Ben Foster all competed to see which one could make the biggest blunder for England (the jury is still out on that one), James quietly took his place in the final 23-man squad. Experience is really the only thing separating James and the other selected keepers Joe Hart and Robert Green (James has 47 more international caps than both of them combined), and that is presumably why Fabio Capello threw him the number 1 shirt last week when the England squad numbers were announced.
What To Look For
Concentration is key for David James. Most people view him as an accident waiting to happen, but as long as he stays calm, cool, and collected, he’ll be solid in goal, even if he’s not quite on par with the likes of Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon. With an unfamiliar back line in front of him following Rio Ferdinand’s knee injury, James will need to be completely focused at all times, so hopefully the England staff will take his mirror away and ban him from the hair salon.
When Seena Vali isn’t lighting up his local Saturday pick-up game and doing outlandish goal celebrations, you can find him blogging about all things Premier League at World Soccer Reader.
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