Newmains, Lanarkshire born centre forward James Benson began his football career with Markinch Victoria Rovers, from where he was signed by Scottish Second Division club St Johnstone in 1931, and he came to prominence immediately; in 1931-32 Benson was an absolute sensation at Muirton. Aged just 16, he scored in their opening league fixture and then didn’t stop scoring all season. St Johnstone won promotion with Benson scoring a club record of 44 goals including no less than 38 in League matches – his record still stands at the Perth club. At 17, he was leading The Saints’ attack in the First Division. Inevitably Benson didn’t find it so easy at the higher level and only managed 9 goals but that took his overall record to 53 goals in 50 appearances, St Johnstone finishing an excellent fifth in the division.
His prominence saw Benson then signed by First Division club Blackburn Rovers, for whom he made his Football League debut in a 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea in November 1934, Benson scoring Rovers’ goal, his only appearance of the season as understudy to Ernie Thompson. He played once more the next season in a defeat at Stoke City on Boxing Day 1935 and was released after Blackburn’s relegation in 1936.
He had short spells with East Fife and Falkirk that year, and further spells with Dunfermline Athletic and Dundee United the following year before moving to North Eastern League club Durham City without ever repeating his early scoring feats. He then spent 1938-39 on the books at Hartlepools United without making their first eleven, and his career was then ended by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, during which he served in The Royal Navy.
He skippered the Navy and United Services team in the Far East League which was won by the RAF. In the semi-final of the Shield competition, Benson scored a penalty to make it 4-0 for his side against a Chinese XI in Hong Kong. Arguments then broke out among the players and the crowd came over the barricades. Two men were seriously injured in the riot that followed and shots were fired. A navy patrol and commandos were required to clear the pitch at Causeway Bay!
His brothers also were footballers, Willie Benson played for Lochore Welfare and Lochgelly Violet, John Benson played for Clyde.