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Alexander Wilson James (September 14, 1901 – June 1, 1953) was a Scottish footballer, and is most noted for being one of Arsenal's greatest players of all time.

Born in Mossend, Lanarkshire, Alex James played as an inside forward, as a supporting player for the main strikers. He was famed for the excellent quality of his passing and supreme ball control, leading many modern-day comparisons with Arsenal forward Dennis Bergkamp. His rheumatism meant he wore "baggy" shorts to hide the long johns he wore to keep warm; the baggy appearance became his trademark.

James started his career with local youth clubs, before joining Raith Rovers in 1922. He spent three seasons at Starks Park, recording over a hundred League appearances, before moving to Preston North End in 1925. He spent four years at the Second Division side, scoring 55 goals in 157 appearance, but towards the end of his stay there he fell into several disputes with the club's management, partly over wages – at the time, the Football League operated a maximum wage of £8 a week – and also because Preston refused to release James for international duty.

James left Preston for Herbert Chapman's Arsenal in 1929 for £8,750, making his debut against Leeds United on August 31, 1929. In order to circumvent the maximum wage rules, James' employment at Arsenal was supplemented by a £250-a-year "sports demonstrator" job at Selfridges, a London department store. After a forgettable first season, James settled into his role with Arsenal and became part of the dominant side of English football in 1930s; playing as Chapman's designated "midfield schemer", he took a little time to adjust to Arsenal's style of play, but he would become one of the club's all-time greats.

Playing so deep as a supporting player, he scored relatively few goals for Arsenal – only 27 in 261 appearances – but created many times that number. James's passing and vision supplied the ammunition that David Jack, Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake and Jack Lambert all gratefully put into the net. He won the First Division Championship four times (in 1931, 1933, 1934 and 1935), and the FA Cup twice – James scored the first goal of the 1930 final (which was Arsenal's first major trophy win), and captained Arsenal to their 1936 win over Sheffield United. Such was James' influence that in the one Cup final he missed – the 1932 final against Newcastle United – Arsenal lost 2-1, albeit thanks to a highly controversial goal from Newcastle's Jack Allen.

Despite his sparkling club form, he won just eight caps for Scotland. However, this included an appearance for the legendary 'Wembley Wizards' team that thrashed England 5-1 at Wembley in 1928, with James scoring twice.

Alex James retired from playing in 1937. During World War II he served in the Royal Artillery, and after the war he became a journalist. In 1949 he was invited back to Arsenal to coach the club's youth sides, before his sudden death four years later at the age of 51.

 

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