Wednesday, September 14, 2016

14 September 1901 - The Man Who Lit The Fuse

On 14 September 1901, Arsenal legend Alex James was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland. A deep-lying playmaker, he guided the Gunners to their first major trophy.

An inside forward, James began his professional career in 1922 with Raith Rovers, making 98 league appearances before moving to Preston North End in 1925. In four seasons at Deepdale, he scored 53 goals in 147 league appearances. But disputes over his pay and the club's refusal to release him for international duty with Scotland prompted his move to Arsenal in 1929 for a transfer fee of £8,750.

Although Arsenal, like Preston, were restricted by the maximum weekly wage of £8, they supplemented James's salary by landing a position for him at a London department store as a "sports demonstrator" for £250 per year. He repaid the club by helping them win the 1930 FA Cup, scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town in the final.

At Highbury, James flourished as the primary playmaker, playing a critical role in the club's first title-winning season in 1930-31. Additional titles followed in 1933, 1934, and 1935, making Arsenal the period's most dominant side. They won another FA Cup in 1936 and four Charity Shields with James before he retired 1937.

After serving in World War II, he returned to Arsenal as a youth coach in 1949. He died of cancer in 1953 at the age of 51.

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