Obituary: Robbie James
Saturday 21 February 1998
As an indefatigably competitive attacking midfielder cum striker, James played an integral part in Swansea City's prodigious feat in sweeping from the Football League's basement division to its top flight in the space of four years.
Then, having earned his place among the elite, he did not flounder as some lower-league performers do following such a meteoric rise. Indeed, he excelled, not missing a game during the 1981/82 campaign in which the Swans finished sixth in the table, the most exalted position in their history. In addition, he was top scorer with 14 goals, no mean attainment in a side containing fellow Welsh luminary Leighton James and the prolific English marksman Bob Latchford.
Though it was clear from childhood that he was a talented footballer, Robbie James did not plunge straight into the professional game on leaving school, instead taking a job with an electrical firm. However, in March 1973, after attracting interest from both Cardiff City and Arsenal, he signed as an amateur for his local club, Swansea.
Under the shrewd guidance of its manager Harry Gregg, the former Manchester United goalkeeper and survivor of the Munich air crash, the solidly built James made such rapid progress that he was given his senior debut only two months later, aged only 16, on the day City slipped from the Third to the Fourth Division. Thereafter he became a Swansea stalwart, enormously strong and combative, but also skilful and versatile enough to perform in either midfield or the front line.
The Swans' astonishing sequence of promotions, all during the managerial reign of John Toshack, began in 1977/78, the season in which James made his full international debut in a 7-0 victory over Malta at Wrexham. The rise continued in 1978/79 and 1980/81, but sadly the golden peak of 1981/82 was followed by relegation a year later.
At this point, having helped Swansea to three consecutive Welsh Cup triumphs, James opted to remain in the top grade by accepting a pounds 160,000 transfer to Stoke City. Somehow he never did himself justice in the Potteries, but spent three more productive First Division campaigns with Queen's Park Rangers before dropping to the Second with Leicester in 1987.
At Filbert Street James became a right-back, helping in the development of a young defence before returning to Swansea as captain in January 1988. That spring proved eventful as he won his last Wales cap on his 31st birthday, then led his new charges to promotion from the Fourth Division.
James pocketed another Welsh Cup winner's medal in 1989, before serving Bradford City for two seasons and joining Cardiff City in 1992. Still as enthusiastic as ever at the age of 36, he took a prominent role in the Bluebirds' Division three-title triumph of 1992/93 and collected his fifth and final Welsh Cup medal. When his League career ended later that year, he had made 782 appearances, a total bettered by only a handful of others, and scored 133 goals.
James went on to serve non-League Merthyr Tydfil and Barry Town, and was player- manager of Llanelli when he collapsed and died during a match with Porthcawl. To the very last he played the game the only way he knew how, with every ounce of his being.
Robert Mark James, footballer: born Gorseinon, Glamorgan 23 March 1957; played for Swansea City 1973-83, Stoke City 1983-84, Queen's Park Rangers 1984-87, Leicester City 1987-88, Swansea City 1988-90, Bradford City 1990- 92, Cardiff City 1992-93; capped 47 times for Wales 1978-88; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Llanelli, Dyfed 18 February 1998.
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
Scottish independence: Police will be on high alert on Friday whatever the result
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
QS university world rankings: Imperial College London leapfrogs Oxford to join Cambridge as best British university
Scottish independence exclusive: Millions of banknotes sent to Scotland in case Yes vote sparks run on ATMs
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...
£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...