It seems that our goalkeeper discussions have been going on for donkeys years. Who has been worthy appears to be the question. Ever since Ray Clemence, some fans will arguably announce that virtually every custodian we have had have not been top drawer. You decide for yourself. One such custodian was David James.
Also known as Calamity James by some. This may give you an idea as to what some fans thought of him. Anyway, on this day 6th July 1992 we signed David James from Watford.
Manager at the time, Graeme Souness, saw James as a huge prospect for the future. Having made 89 appearances for Watford, James followed in the footsteps of another former Watford player, John Barnes, when he moved from Vicarage Road for a fee in the region of £1m.
In all David James made a total of 277 appearances for Liverpool. Some may say that he was brilliant and awful at times in equal measure. A series of high profile errors saw him eventually replaced by Sander Westerveld. Looking back, hardly an upgrade at all. David James left Liverpool to sign for Aston Villa for a fee of £1.8m in 1999.
James was considered one of England’s best and brightest goalkeepers when he was establishing himself at Watford. When he saved for Liverpool at only 21 years of age he was determined to become the club’s first-choice ‘keeper and England’s as well inside two years.
He didn’t start his Liverpool too brilliantly it must be said. Quite a few critics wrote him off very soon into his Liverpool career.
In and Out The Starting XI
It didn’t take too long for Bruce Grobbelaar to recapture his place but even when he was later out through illness, Mike Hooper was preferred to David James in the 1992/93 season. Before the season ended though James handed the number one jersey again.
He did not start the next season as first team regular. James had to settle for bench duty until February 1994 when Grobbelaar got injured. From that point on James made 213 consecutive appearances until Brad Friedel took his place in February 1998. James did get his place back in the side in the 1998/99 season but that turned out to be his last at Liverpool.
Prone To Errors
David James was quite prone to make mistakes. To be fair Liverpool fans had sort of got accustomed to keeper errors after watching Grobbelaar for a few years. But unlike Grobbelaar’s spell in the side Liverpool were not winning much. Quite often Grobbelaar would make a mistake but it wouldn’t necessarily matter.
However when James made a mistake it was quite often the reason behind Liverpool’s defeat. James did at times attribute his lack of concentration to playing Nintendo games long into the night. Strange announcement in many respects. You may ask, if it caused a lack of concentration on the pitch then why play it?
One game in particular I remember was against Coventry at home around Easter time. Coventry were fighting a relegation battle and Liverpool were still in the hunt for the title. We took the lead through an early Robbie Fowler goal only for Noel Whelan to equalise after a Gary McAllister corner. Although a draw wasn’t brilliant, a point was better was nothing. But nothing is what we got after a James howler in injury time. A McAllister corner again and James flapped at it, Dion Dublin pounced – 2-1, game over.
You can see the goal highlights here….
Despite his Liverpool career not living up to expectations, James had quite a successful career with a number of clubs after moving on from Liverpool. He also played a healthy number of international appearances.
On 14 February 2009 he achieved the all-time Premier League appearance record with 536 appearances, overtaking Gary Speed. He held this record until Ryan Giggs broke it in 2011.
In 2008 James won the FA Cup with Portsmouth. It was a case of third time lucky as he had lost with Liverpool in the 1996 final to a late Eric Cantona goal and Aston Villa in 2000.
After taking part of every season of the Premier League since its inception in the 1992/93, James moved to Bristol City in the Championship for the 2010/11 season. After appearing regularly in the Championship for a couple of years the 41-year-old goalkeeper was released at the end of 2011/12.
Still not finished though. Towards the end of September 2012, now at the age of 42, James joined his eighth different English League club when he signed for AFC Bournemouth.
From there James went on to play for teams in Iceland and India.
Fair do’s to him. David James was a colourful character and to his credit he must have been a lot better than us mere mortals of fans realised as so many teams wanted to sign him and did actually sign him. And to have so many caps for England as well (53 caps in all).