Obituary: Robbie James - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Obituary: Robbie James

ROBBIE JAMES gave his life to Welsh football. He played 47 times for his country, always displaying the passionate fervour demanded of every man who dons the red shirt, but arguably it was for his immense achievements at club level that he made the most vivid impression.

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.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week