The Journeyman

Journeyman: A worker or sports player who is reliable but not outstanding

We have four spaces left to fill in our Journeyman squad after signing up Wayne Routledge last week. With two defenders, three midfielders and two strikers currently on the books, we’re still feeling pretty flexible as to how this team will shape up. One thing is for sure, we will need a goalkeeper. So that’s where we’re focusing this week.

We have a problem though. Goalkeepers are a funny breed, and once they get in somewhere they tend to stay there for a while. As I flicked through the Premier League archives, there were many such examples. Dean Kiley clocked up well over 200 games for Charlton, or Welsh International Paul Jones racked up 200 games for Southampton. Both men can absolutely be categorised in a Venn diagram with the circles for “reliable” and “not outstanding” overlapping, but due to their prolonged time at a club, it doesn’t make for a great article.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are goalkeepers who are around forever but barely play. I’m looking at you, Stuart Taylor. A Premier League player for Arsenal, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Reading and even now, Southampton, you’d think there’d be more to talk about in a career spanning 17 years and counting. But there isn’t. Richard Wright’s career followed a similar path, enjoying a few seasons as Arsenal’s and Everton’s number one before many more years warming benches around the country.

It seems only right that we have our first Journeyman substitute, awarded to the man with the most Premier League clubs but the fewest appearances. Carlo Nash, a Premier League player for Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Wigan, Everton, Stoke and Norwich, has amassed a total of 18 Premier League appearances, with 15 of them for Manchester City and 3 for Middlesbrough. That’s a lot of clubs where you just showed up, Carlo.

It is almost with regret that I put forward this week’s candidate. He played over 50 times for his country but, the fact that he played for so many teams really shows his status as a journeyman – it’s fair to say he has a mistake in him, but the nickname “calamity” was probably a bit too far. Step forward, David James.

I’m your goalie, your number one

James was signed by Liverpool from Watford for £1.25m, just in time for the launch of the Premier League in the 1992/93 season. Graeme Souness was the manager at the time, though he didn’t last much further into the 90’s as Liverpool stumbled to 6th place and made no great impression in the cup competitions. Although dropped by Souness during the 93/94 season, the Scotsman was sacked in January 1994, and his replacement Roy Evans opted to reinstall James instead of the veteran Bruce Grobbelaar. Liverpool this time finished 8th, but things definitely started to improve under Evans, with a League Cup win following in the 1994/95 season, before the birth of the “spice boys” in a losing effort in the 1995/96 FA Cup final. Despite the team’s upturn in form, it was during this time that James started to make errors leading to the “calamity James” nickname. James himself attributed this to playing too many computer games which affected his concentration. I have no idea where he got this theory from. Now, what were we talking about?

Hero to Villain

Although Liverpool were regulars in the top 4, they weren’t really threatening to win many titles. Gerard Houllier arrived in the infamous “joint managers” move to start the 1998/99 season, though that lasted until November before Evans departed and Houllier took over solo. It was at the end of this season that James’ time at Liverpool came to a close, as he was sold to Aston Villa for a mere £1.8m

The highlight of James’ time at Villa Park was their run to the FA Cup final. James starred in the semi-final victory over Bolton, saving two penalties in the shoot-out before Dion Dublin tucked away the winning penalty. I’ve dug it out on Youtube for you, but I must warn you. It involves a moustachioed Sam Allardyce.

Anyway, the final was the last to be played at the Old Wembley and, in typical James fashion, he was at fault for the only goal of the game. Sadly, that’s here too:

A year later, James was sold to West Ham for £3.5m.

Up and Down, Forward and Back

James’ debut was delayed for three months due to an injury sustained on International duty, but James returned to help the Hammers finish 7th in the 2001/02 under the guidance of Glenn Roeder. Few predicted what was to follow, as a disastrous season saw West Ham relegated after a final day draw with Birmingham. Despite initially opting to stay at Upton Park in the First Division, the opportunity arose to move back to the Premier League with Manchester City in January 2004.

At Man City, perhaps his most famous moment came on the final day of the 2004/05 season. Middlesbrough and Man City, purely by chance, met on the last day of the season with a European place at stake. City needed to win and with the score locked at 1-1, manager Stuart Pearce had some sort of lightbulb moment and put James up front! I can’t do the whole incident justice, but our old friend Youtube can.

A year later, possibly as a result of becoming tired of being an emergency striker, James asked to move in order to be closer to his children in London. For £1.2m, Portsmouth acquired our man in August 2006.

Going South

Whilst at Portsmouth, James would win the FA Cup in 2008 and also be runner up again in 2010. Portsmouth were relegated in the same season but this was more of a financial issue rather than the poor team performances that had seen West Ham relegated. With James’ contract expiring in July 2010, he did express an interest in being the new manager of Portsmouth but, this never came to fruition.

It was during his time at Portsmouth that James finally broke into the England national team as a regular. Having played all of England’s matches at Euro 2004, he lost his place to Paul Robinson shortly after the tournament and although he travelled to the 2006 World Cup, James wasn’t selected for any of England’s games. Steve McClaren also didn’t care much for big DJ, overlooking him for much of his ill-fated spell in charge and infamously opting for Scott Carson in the decisive game with Croatia. With McClaren replaced by Fabio Capello, James was reinstated as the number one for much of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. An injury meant he started the tournament as backup to Rob Green, but after a big error from Green in the first match, James was recalled to become the oldest World Cup debutant. I won’t bore you with the details of how that World Cup ended for England.

After Portsmouth James had several more clubs, but none in the Premier League. It seems unfair to categorise Jamo as a journeyman, but you can’t argue that he was obviously deemed replaceable just about everywhere he went, and indeed for his country. A good, solid pro who broke many consecutive appearance records, which shows him to be reliable but perhaps not likely to make anybody’s “greatest ‘keeper of all time” shortlist. You’re a good man DJ, but stay off the video games.