David James: How former Liverpool goalkeeper ended up with his memorablia up for sale

Bankruptcy forces the free-spirited former England goalkeeper to auction off his possessions

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The Independent Football

David James will be in preparing for his club’s sixth game in the India Super League today, kick-off around 2pm British time, when the team he plays for and coaches, the Kerala Blasters, face FC Goa in Kochi. They play again on Sunday against the Delhi Dynamos and by mid-December he will be back in English football and looking for work again.

By the time he returns, the auctioneers Hilco, working on behalf of his bankruptcy trustees, will have sold a remarkable inventory of the former England international’s possessions, including 150 football shirts he either wore, got in exchanges or trained in; extensive DJing equipment; 1,800 records; a three-door Vauxhall Astra van and a petrol-driven chainsaw.

James possessions will go on sale online, the trustees of his bankruptcy said in the hope they “will produce significant sums for creditors” and certainly the auction will not want for publicity after 236 lots were released. The bankruptcy was first announced in March, when James was still a BT Sport pundit, but it was the minutiae of the items that caught the imagination, from his jersey from the 2010 FA Cup final to his Raleigh Chopper bike.

In his 2004 autobiography, Stan Collymore described his time lodging with James when they both played for Liverpool in 1995. “If he [James] had a new car and he pranged it, he would just go and buy a new car – so there were five cars parked in the drive. If he bought a new pair of shoes and he scuffed them, he wouldn’t clean them. He would just chuck them in the spare room and buy a new pair. Too much disposable income, I suppose.  Too easy just to bin stuff. Too easy to spend money like you’re going to be earning that kind of money for the rest of your life.”

But there is also another side to James, an affable footballer who was always one of the free spirits in an England era in which the biggest players often found themselves dictated to by overbearing agents. He earned his last cap in the defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup, one month short of his 40th birthday, having lost and won back the No 1 jersey more times than he cared to remember.

He is in India because, friends say, he wanted the chance to manage a team – and, given a nice life as a BT Sport pundit, it was hardly the easy option. Kerala are seventh in an eight-team league and once that competition is over on 9 December, his contract will be up and there are no guarantees that he will be called back.

Despite his status as a player, it has not been easy to find coaching work. Most recently he was at League Two Luton Town as a goalkeeping coach. He is working towards his Uefa A licence qualification with a view to a career in management. He has moved back to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, where he grew up, and lives with his second wife, Amanda.

Informed sources say that his salary peaked at £50,000 a week in his highest-earning years, probably at Portsmouth when they embarked on their ruinous spending spree under owner Sacha Gaydamak. It is suggested, although unconfirmed, that while some players pushed for outstanding money from the club when it was in administration, James donated his creditors’ agreement to club staff.

He was generous with his money. James established his own foundation to sponsor projects in Malawi, and the player is understood to have directed much of his personal earnings towards its work. His long-running column in The Observer newspaper was done in return for a charitable payment. Those who knew James well would never pretend that he was good at managing money but none would claim that he was ever greedy.

The details of his decline into bankruptcy are sketchy but his divorce from first wife Tanya was significant and there were other failed investments. His career earnings are estimated at £20m, gross. The contract in Kerala is certainly not for a life-changing amount of money, exemplified by the players he has been able to sign – striker Michael Chopra, best known for his gambling debts, and Iain Hume, the Canada international who last played in England on loan at Fleetwood Town.

At 44 it is remarkable that James is still occasionally playing, given the stress goalkeeping places on knees and shoulders. After stints at Bristol City and Bournemouth, he joined his old team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson with the Icelandic club IBV. Those who know him well say that he has taken his bankruptcy with the philosophical approach that he has tackled the ups and downs that have characterised his career.

Collymore, a man who had his own demons, described James thus: “He can come across as the thickest, dumbest bloke on the planet, but you only need to listen to him speak in more rational moments to realise that he is a very bright bloke.” Judging by James’ life thus far, he can well do without the Chopper bike and the Technics turntables – as long as he still has a career in football.

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