27 October ~ David James isn't like other footballers. David James has studied psychology. David James often gives strangely passive-aggressive post-match interviews. David James writes his own column for the Observer, which isn't even written by a journalist or anything! But hang on a minute. There's a reason why footballers' columns are ghostwritten and it has much less to do with their skills as writers than it does the fear of them accidentally revealing just how detached from the realities of modern life they really are.

For every sub-editor employed to tidy up Michael Owen's subjunctives there are presumably two more tasked with removing all references to his platinum hovercraft and the undersea lair he's just bought in Hawaii. But "Jamo" is different, isn't he?

Those hoping that James's much heralded intellectualism might triumph over the traditional Premier League player's grossly inflated sense of entitlement would have been disappointed to read his returning Observer column on Sunday. You can read it yourself here if you wish but the unremitting catalogue of hardship and degradation involved in being Bristol City's best paid player of all time is pretty hard to stomach.

Nevertheless, it's worth recapping James's appalling treatment at Ashton Gate (if only to stop Steven Gerrard accidentally signing for Millwall). The list of indignities includes: having to remember to bring and clean his own football boots; being forced to travel to games on a coach – even when the games are further north than Birmingham!; coping with a ball that is different to the one in the Premier League and enduring constant questions from non-famous team-mates about Wayne Rooney and playing for England.

Inevitably, James admits to having second thoughts about playing for a team that isn't very good. "How did I end up here? I must confess it wasn't part of the plan... I'll be honest, there are days when we get beat and I think: 'What am I doing here?'" All very encouraging for those who bemoan the lack of honesty and insight from modern footballers, but what exactly are his team-mates and the fans who pay his wages meant to make of this? And what happens if Bristol City get relegated to League One? Perhaps football's loss will be literature's gain. One can only imagine the Dostoevskian depths of soul-searching his prose will have attained by the time the team bus finally gets to Hartlepool.

David James is not your average millionaire footballer – he is honest and this is refreshing. But what this honesty actually reveals is that he's not so different from his former colleagues as some people (including David James) might like to think. Tom Lines

Comments (12)
Comment by imp 2010-10-27 13:52:31

"One can only imagine the Dostoevskian depths of soul-searching his prose will have attained by the time the team bus finally gets to Hartlepool." It's arguable whether or not you can attain depths, but it's still the funniest thing I've read all week. If I was his manager I'd make him scrub the baths with a toothbrush after that piece.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2010-10-27 14:34:48

I'm getting slightly concerned at the way WSC is going; the sharp increase in derogatory articles (the vulgar attack on Chelsea a real nadir) smacks of bitterness and spite to me. You have clearly (maybe even deliberately) misread James' column if you think he is complaining about the realities of leaving the Premier League. It's quite clear he is revealing how shocked he is by the differences and that he is adapting to it, relishing the challenge, having been cosseted at even a club like Portsmouth. Maybe all you people constantly moaning about and making snide comments at footballers and the Premier League should go find another hobby as it would appear this one doesn't give you pleasure anymore. Take up fishing or something, it might help you chill out.

Comment by biziclop 2010-10-27 14:52:52

I don't know, the article doesn't sound that bad to me. If anything, he seems to be enjoying the more down to earth surroundings and points out how detached from real world the Premier League has become.

Okay, apart from the rant about the ball but show me a goalkeeper who doesn't do that every single time he encounters a new ball. It's part of the routine: kick post twice, stamp out imaginary divot, spit between gloves, complain about ball.

Comment by Nefertiti2 2010-10-27 17:06:16

Agree withmoe and biziclop. David James is one of the few professional footballers who is ready to go beyond PR commonplaces to venture an opinion. It's a well-written piece, and to call it "arrogant" is an act of deliberate caricature.

Comment by TonTon 2010-10-27 19:04:52

This piece reads as a hatchet job even before you look at James's column. Once you've read James's column, you have to wonder if he nicked Tom Lines's girlfriend, or something.

Comment by bangsection 2010-10-27 20:12:53

Hello, is this the trial for the Team GB "Missing the Point" squad for the London Olympics?

Jolly good. Can I just say that I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of my fellow competitors above. It beggars belief that a writer on WSC can take a view on a NATIONAL HERO like David James and then construct a so-called humorous article around it. Some may argue that he should have briefly stated that the Chamionship was a bit different to the Premier League before outlining his plans for keeping his employers in the division rather than TROTTING OUT A HUGE LIST OF PSEUDO HARDSHIPS THAT MADE HIM SOUND LIKE A WHINY KID WHOSE BEEN DROPPED TO THE SECOND XI but I would not be one of them.

Millionaire footballers have enough on their plate without upstarts on obscure websites taking the piss out of them.

See you in 2012!

Comment by cc82 2010-10-27 20:57:10

I've read James' article. I don't think Tom says anything untoward here.

"I like to throw the ball out quickly, but my automatic thought of rapid attack sometimes needs suppressing because in this league the players are more used to keepers hoofing it up the other end."

"Having spent four years at Portsmouth – with the quirks and eccentricities of their facilities – I thought I'd be prepared for anything in the Championship. Wrong. Even in Portsmouth's darkest financial hour the players would fly to a game anywhere north of Birmingham, but here we travel to almost all of our games by coach."

"How did I end up here? I must confess it wasn't part of the plan. I thought I would either stay with Portsmouth, move to a Premier League club, or go to Scotland."

"At first I felt like a foreign object thrown in front of the team. In the early days most conversations started with, 'sorry, but my mates wanted me to ask you...' and then it would be something about Wayne Rooney or playing for England. I felt like curiosity of the week."

Comment by Bobby Westside 2010-10-28 11:33:01

To be honest i really like David James in the observer, i think this column is just James admitting to the culture shock of dropping out of the premier league and him admitting that premier league footballers want for nothing.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-10-28 13:45:00

If people miss the point Bangsection it is not always the fault of the reader.
I very much doubt James would compare his issues to say starvation or being a refugee. What he writes about in his column is realtive and it makes interesting reading to see the difference in the levels he has played at. Sure, he is a millionaire footballer and for this reason seemingly detatched from us, but that doesn't mean he should write platitudes to not offend some readers who think they are the ones with the "real problems" that no footballer could possibly understand. In addition cc82, I am interested in what he says, I wouldn't have imagined that professional footballers, especially at Championship level, would be similar to me in asking another professional lots of questions about the international side of things and treating him as a celebrity

Comment by madmickyf 2010-10-29 03:32:03

I'm going to sit on the fence here and say "Yes, James does sound like a whingy, pampered Premier League player at times but he also seems to display some self-awareness that he is acting a bit like a prima donna".

At the end of the day this article wouldn't be James biggest crime. That would be supporting Luton as a kid and then going on to play for the 'orrible 'ornets!

Comment by Jobi1 2010-10-30 10:23:42

I think lines in James' piece such as: "The mistakes seem to determine the results more than individual moments of brilliance. That's no criticism of the players...", and the bit about being denied use of an aircraft in the context of access to basic facilities, don't help his cause if he is trying to garner sympathy, but I agree with the posters above that Tom's piece is maybe a little OTT in its criticism. At least it makes a change from reading the usual footballers' private life stories about alleged assaults and sexual deviancy

Comment by TonTon 2010-10-30 11:58:52

James isn't national hero, nor is he mine. I don't see what that has ot do with this childish hatchet job, though.

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