Battersea, London born centre half Joe James played junior football for Battersea Church before he joined the groundstaff of Third Division (South) club Brentford in August 1928, turning professional exactly a year later, and making his Football League debut at Brighton & Hove Albion in November 1931. Brentford were promoted to the Second Division in 1933 as Champions of the Third Division (South) but he only played 5 games in the season. He broke into the first team in 1933-34 and only missed 3 games as The Bees won the Second Division Championship in 1934-35. He then captained Brentford in the First Division as they had the best spell of finishing positions in the club’s history, 5th in 1936 followed by two 6th places over the next 2 seasons. By the time the Second World War broke out in September 1939 he had played 255 times scoring twice.
He continued to play and captain Brentford in wartime football, captaining the side to the 1941-42 London War Cup, winning the trophy at the second time of asking. and played his last match for Brentford in February 1944, breaking his wrist in a 5-3 defeat to Charlton Athletic. After the war, James, now in his mid-thirties, signed for Colchester United of the Southern League. He made his debut on 17th November 1945 in a 3-1 away defeat to Hereford United and played his last game for the club on 2nd February 1946, an 8-0 defeat at the hands of Bath City. He made a total of 9 appearances for Colchester before his retirement.
He is a member of the Brentford Hall of Fame.