Dan Coker's Match Preview

Welcome to the fourth in a series of articles designed for international weekends – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England. Today, as England prepare to face Slovakia at Wembley, we look back at a former Hammers and England goalkeeper – David James.

David James was born in Welwyn Garden City on 1st August 1970 and grew up as a Luton supporter. He signed for Watford though and, after helping the Hornets win the FA Youth Cup, made his full debut in August 1990 at the age of 20. He earned 10 caps for England Under-21s before moving to Liverpool in the summer of 1992. He won the League Cup in 1995 and received an FA Cup runners-up medal the following year before making his England debut under Glenn Hoddle in a friendly against Mexico on 29th March 1997. He signed for Aston Villa in the summer of 1999 and was once again on the losing side in an FA Cup Final, this time in 2000, the last Final to be played at the old Wembley.

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James signed for Glenn Roeder’s West Ham United in July 2001 for £3.5m but a serious knee injury picked up in a collision with Martin Keown whilst playing for England against the Netherlands at White Hart Lane would keep him out until late autumn. The 31-year-old finally made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham on 24th November 2001 – he went on to keep ten clean sheets in 29 appearances in his first season, a campaign which saw no other Premier League team win more matches at home than the Hammers. The club finished seventh but were to nosedive the following season, culminating in relegation. James was an ever-present in 2002/03, keeping nine clean sheets in 42 appearances during a season in which he became England’s first-choice goalkeeper, replacing David Seaman.

James remained with the club for the first half of the First Division campaign of 2003/04, seeing many of his team-mates depart in a fire sale and playing under three managers – Roeder, caretaker boss Trevor Brooking and Alan Pardew – as the Hammers adjusted to life in the second tier. ‘Jamo’ kept ten clean sheets in 31 games before returning to the Premier League with Manchester City in a £2m deal in January 2004. He had made 102 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, his final match being a 2-1 home defeat to Preston on 10th January 2004. James had retained his position as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England number one but his return to the top flight all but secured his place as England’s goalkeeper at the upcoming Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal.

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After two and a half years with City, James returned south to join Portsmouth in the summer of 2006. While with Pompey, he broke the Premier League record for clean sheets and consecutive appearances. He stands fourth in the all-time Premier League appearances list with 572 games played – only Ryan Giggs, Gareth Barry and ex-Hammer Frank Lampard have played more. James moved to Bristol City in the summer of 2010 having captained Portsmouth in the FA Cup Final, James again picking up a runners-up medal after defeat at Wembley to Chelsea. The goalkeeper also played three of England’s four matches at the 2010 World Cup, having lost his place to Paul Robinson during qualification for the 2006 World Cup – former Hammer James replaced then-Hammers custodian Rob Green in the tournament held in South Africa after Green’s unfortunate error against the USA.

The 42-year-old James was released by Bristol City in the summer of 2012 and signed for Bournemouth in September of that year. His final appearance for Bournemouth, and in English football, was against Walsall in a 3-1 defeat at the Bescot Stadium on 19th January 2013.

James went on to play in Iceland for IBV, teaming up with former team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson in order to gain coaching experience. James was also player-manager of Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, owned by Sachin Tendulkar, in 2014, helping the side to runners-up position in the inaugural campaign of the ISL. James played 956 matches during his career and, now 47, he is a regular pundit on BT Sports. My video below is a compilation of some of his saves in a West Ham shirt.

England v Slovakia

England face Slovakia on Monday in a World Cup 2018 qualifier – it will be the sixth meeting between the two nations. James played in the only previous competitive match between the two on these shores – a 2-1 win for England in a Euro 2004 qualifier in front of 35,000 at the Riverside Stadium on 11th June 2003, a month to the day after the Hammers were relegated. Evanesence were number one with ‘Bring Me To Life’, The Matrix Reloaded topped the UK box office and, the day after, American actor Gregory Peck passed away.

Former Hammer Frank Lampard and future Iron Matthew Upson joined James in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s starting line-up. Slovakia had Vladimir Labant at left-back – Labant had spent a short spell with the Hammers between January and August 2002, making 15 appearances in claret and blue before returning from whence he came to Sparta Prague.

James was forced into a fine block on 14 minutes after Slovan Bratislava’s Robert Vittek had been allowed far too much space behind England’s backline to fire in a volley. The visitors did score the opening goal just after the half-hour mark – Austria Vienna’s Vladimir Janocko curled in an angled free-kick which eluded everyone and spun into the far corner of the net.

With just over an hour played, England skipper Michael Owen was brought down in the penalty area and converted the resulting spot-kick himself. The Liverpool double act of Owen and Steven Gerrard combined to provide England’s winner, Gerrard crossing for Owen to head home on 72 minutes for his 22nd goal in his 50th international appearance.

England: David James (West Ham), Danny Mills (Leeds), Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough), Matthew Upson (Birmingham), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), Phil Neville (Man Utd), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Paul Scholes (Man Utd), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Wayne Rooney (Everton), Michael Owen (captain, Liverpool).

Subs: Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) for Mills, Darius Vassell (Aston Villa) for Rooney.

Slovakia: Miroslav Konig (FC Zurich), Michal Hanek (Dinamo Moscow), Marian Zeman (Vitesse Arnhem), Martin Petras (Sparta Prague), Vladimir Labant (Sparta Prague), Vladimir Janocko (Austria Vienna), Igor Demo (captain, Borussia Monchengladbach), Radoslav Zabavnik (MSK Zilina), Rastilav Michalik (Sparta Prague), Robert Vittek (Slovan Bratislava), Szilard Nemeth (Middlesbrough).

Subs: Ondrej Debnar (Artmedia Petrzalka) for Labant; Marek Mintal (MSK Zilina) for Demo, Lubomir Reiter (Sigma Olomouc) for Nemeth.