Alex James

/Alex James
Alex James2017-07-11T18:22:29+00:00

Inside forward Alex James was one of the supreme talents of inter war football. A boyhood friend of Hughie Gallacher, he started with Raith Rovers in 1922, scoring 27 goals in nearly 100 appearances at Starks Park before joining Preston North End in 1925 for £3000. He made his Preston debut at Middlesbrough in September 1925. He made his Scotland debut in October 1925 against Wales and was a member of the famous Wembley Wizards team that beat England 5-1 in March 1928, scoring twice in the game. Tom Finney, who would go to Preston to watch as a schoolboy, said of him: “James was the top star of the day, a genius. There wasn’t much about him physically, but he had sublime skills and the knack of letting the ball do the work. He wore the baggiest of baggy shorts and his heavily gelled hair was parted down the centre. On the odd occasion when I was able to watch a game at Deepdale, sometimes sneaking under the turnstiles when the chap on duty was distracted, I was in awe of James.” But he soon fell out with Preston over wages and being released for internationals, and in the summer of 1929 Arsenal signed him for £8,750 after 53 goals in 153 games. In his first season he scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Huddersfield Town, but he became a master creator of goals for the likes of Jack, Bastin, Drake and Lambert. They won the League Championship 4 years in the next 5, being runners up in 1931-32, when they also lost in the Cup Final to Newcastle, and he captained Arsenal in their 1936 FA Cup triumph over Sheffield United. He retired from football aged nearly 36 in the summer of 1937 after only 27 goals in 261 games for The Gunners, but his contribution to the team’s success simply can’t be underestimated, he was the creative genius behind Arsenal’s period of unrivalled success. Sir Matt Busby later recalled: “Alex James was the great creator from the middle. From an Arsenal rearguard action the ball would, seemingly inevitably, reach Alex. He would feint and leave two or three opponents sprawling or plodding in his wake before he released the ball, unerringly, to either the flying Joe Hulme, who would not even have to pause in his flight, or the absolutely devastating Cliff Bastin, who would take a couple of strides and whip the ball into the net. The number of goals created from rearguard beginnings by Alex James were the most significant factor in Arsenal’s greatness.”