Cross Keys, Caerphilly born inside forward Wilf James played junior football for Abercarn Welfare in 1923 and Ynysddu Crusaders in 1924 before joining Newport County, for whom he made his Football League debut against Brentford in October 1925 but only played once more that season. He scored 8 goals in 18 appearances the next season but left in the summer of 1927 to play non league football, firstly for Thorne Colliery and then later in 1927 for Owston Park Rangers. He returned to Football League action with Notts County in 1929, scoring on his debut in April 1929 in a 3-0 victory over Wolves, and getting 5 goals in 16 appearances before a move to West Ham United in the 1930 close season. It was while at West Ham that he was first capped for Wales on 22nd April 1931 in a 3-2 victory over Ireland at Wrexham and he won a further cap on 5th December 1931, also against Ireland, in a 4-0 defeat in Belfast.
In February 1932, after 7 goals in 41 appearances for The Hammers, he joined Charlton Athletic, scoring 3 goals in 29 appearances before moving to non league Workington in 1933. He finally returned to League action with Carlisle United in 1935, scoring 6 goals in 47 appearances before his retirement in 1937.