James offers a sacrifice that fits World Cup hope

Goalkeeper drops clause that automatically triggers new £2m-a-year contract
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The Independent Football

David James has agreed to waive his contractual right to be given another £2m-a-year deal in the summer at Portsmouth, paving the way for the veteran England goalkeeper to press his claims for a place in Fabio Capello's squad for the World Cup this summer.

James, 39, said he is negotiating to exclude the clause in his contract which states if he plays 20 first team games for Portsmouth this season an extension to the deal would automatically be triggered. James is desperate to play regular football to convince Capello he should be England's first-choice goalkeeper in South Africa this summer, and he feared Portsmouth's uncertain financial future might result in him being forced to miss matches because the club cannot afford to renew his current contract.

James's decision will be welcome news for Balram Chainrai, who has become Portsmouth's new owner following a dramatic takeover on Wednesday.

The goalkeeper said he is happy to forget the clause in a deal that is beneficial to both club and player, as the situation was fast becoming something out of "a comic book". James said: "I spoke to the manager [Avram Grant] and said, 'There is no way I want to go.' I want to stay here until the end of the season, do well, stay in the Premier League, go to the World Cup and worry about next season, next season. My only concerns were that there might have been a power above us that dictated to us. It was comic book stuff; we've been living in a comic book existence."

James said there were two reasons for changing the contract; to help out Portsmouth and to ensure he gets enough football to justify a place at the World Cup. Capello has put his faith in James from the word go. The England manager picked James for his first game in charge, against Switzerland in February 2008, despite the keeper having been sidelined for almost three years under predecessor Steve McClaren.

James re-established himself as the No 1 goalkeeper and started each of Capello's first 13 games. However, injuries to shoulder and calf have allowed Rob Green to enjoy a prolonged run in the side, and James' place is no longer certain. His last start was against Ukraine in April 2009, and he has made just one substitute appearance in the eight games since, picking up his 49th cap.

James tried to move to Stoke City on loan in the January transfer window as a way of playing more games, but the clubs could not agree terms, despite prolonged negotiations. Instead Stoke bought James' understudy Asmir Begovic for £3.5m on Monday, which meant Portsmouth needed James more than ever.

James said: "Given that you're outside the transfer window then sitting on the bench, or not even that, wouldn't have done me any good for trying to help Portsmouth stay up, and it wouldn't have done me any good with trying to stay in the England squad for the World Cup. It was a legitimate concern.

"The Premier League rulings allow us to do contract renegotiations outside of the transfer window and we will get it sorted out because I don't want the club worrying about it and I don't want to be worrying about it myself."

James accepted that his decision to release the club from its obligation to hand him a new contract would hit him in the pocket, saying: "Without being funny, I'm not the richest man in the world but if there is a financial burden that makes the club suffer then why should I be taking the piss?"