James Chambers

Former Player Remembers: James Chambers

When full back James Chambers, who played for Leicester City in the 2007/08 season, spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson, he reflected on his lengthy career in football.
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He made a total of over 400 league and cup appearances for seven league clubs between 1999 and 2015. He and his brother Adam became the first twins to represent England at any level when they played for the England Under-20s side in 1999. They also played together in the Premier League for West Bromwich Albion.

West Bromwich-born James started by recalling how, along with his twin Adam, he began his professional career at the Hawthorns.

“We had been asked to join West Brom from the age of 11 but my dad wouldn’t let us go," he began. "He wisely thought it would be best for us to stay with our local team and enjoy our football. He said that if we were any good they would still want us when we got older.

“We went to West Brom when we were 14. Our progress mirrored each other as we went through the ranks. I made my first team debut against Port Vale in January 2000 before my brother and I am always quick to remind him of that!

"At that time West Brom were struggling a little bit in the Championship. We had some good young players coming through like Daniel Gabbidon and Lloyd Dyer who is well known at Leicester of course”.

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James Chambers

The Baggies reached the Premier League during Chambers' spell at the Hawthorns.

James’s progress won him international recognition, as he explained: "When we were 18, Adam and I were selected for England Under-20s for the Youth World Cup in Nigeria. Ashley Cole, Peter Crouch and Andy Johnson were in the team. The manager was Chris Ramsey. The tournament didn’t go too well to be honest. There was a problem with security leading into the tournament so a few of the lads pulled out.

"We didn’t make it out of the group stages. But it was a great experience to go to Nigeria which was a different world with armed guards around the hotel and things like that. We did a bit of charity work as well. I remember going to a school with my brother and giving a little talk there. It is something you remember and we both talk about it now to be honest.”

James made 78 appearances for the Baggies who were promoted to the Premier League in 2001/02 and again in 2004.

“I made my debut under Brian Little,” James said. “If it had been two years later it would have been a lot more difficult. We came through at the right time. Then Gary Megson came in. Luckily for us we were considered as part of the first team squad and helped get the club promoted to the Premier League.”

Reminded that he and Adam were the first twins to play together in a Premier League side, James continued, “With our know-how, ability and team togetherness, we were a good enough team to be out of the Championship but it is a different level in the Premier League. There was probably more of a gap then than there is now. We struggled in the Premier League, went down in 2003 but then came back up again in 2004."

The year I went to Watford we got to the semi-final of the League Cup. We lost out narrowly to Liverpool. The year afterwards, we got promoted via the play-offs.

James Chambers

In August 2004, James moved to Watford for a fee of £250,000.

James commented: As most players will tell you, there comes a point where the decision to move on has to be made in order to progress your career by taking a chance elsewhere. At the time there had been big changes at West Brom as we were trying to keep our Premier League status.

"I had been on loan to Championship side Watford for a month. It went very well and I enjoyed it so I signed. Ray Lewington was the manager. He later became Roy Hodgson’s number two for England. They had some really good players and there was a great atmosphere.

“The year I went to Watford (2004/05) we got to the semi-final of the League Cup. We lost out narrowly to Liverpool. The year afterwards, we got promoted via the play-offs defeating Leeds in the final at the Millennium Stadium because Wembley was being rebuilt at the time. It was another big occasion. The year after that we lost to Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park.

“In October 2006, I spent a month on loan at Cardiff who at the time were top of the Championship. They had some very good players like Jay Boothroyd, Michael Chopra, Riccardo Scimeca, Stephen McPhailand and Glenn Loovens.  I really enjoyed it there. They wanted me to stay but I was asked to go back to Watford in the Premier League.

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James Chambers

Chambers scored Watford’s second goal in their Championship Play-Off Final victory over Leeds United.

"Then I got injured. I was probably playing the best football of my career but then, playing at Newcastle, I got a horrific tackle from Obafemi Martins. I ended up with 13 stitches in my ankle and a skin graft which kept me out for a long period that season.”

James’s time at Watford ended when he signed for Leicester City in June 2007. Unfortunately he then found himself caught up that season in the turbulence at the Club which featured three managers, (Martin Allen, Gary Megson and Ian Holloway) and a club record number of 40 players appearing in the first team.

I was out of contract at Watford. We had just come down from the Premier League. I wasn’t sure how things were going to go so when the opportunity came to join a club the size of Leicester I jumped at the chance.

"That year they brought in new players like DJ Campbell, Stephen Clemence and Bruno N’Gotty. There were some good young players at the club like Andy King, Richard Stearman and Alan Sheehan but it didn’t gel, especially as there were so many manager changes that season.”

James’s Leicester City debut against Blackpool on the first day of the season was soon followed the dramatic League Cup game at Nottingham Forest when fellow full-back Clive Clarke suffered a near fatal heart attack. The match was abandoned with Nottingham Forest 1-0 ahead. Martin Allen left the club the next day. James clearly remembers the replayed game.

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James Chambers

In league action for the Foxes against Scunthorpe United.

“I played in that game," the defender remembered. "I was either sitting next to him or one down from him on the bench in the dressing room at half time. I remember seeing him slouching down. The next thing we knew he was flat out on the floor. It was a very traumatic situation. Very frightening. Thank God he made a recovery and he is with us today.

“I was thinking about this just the other day. Their goalkeeper (Paul Smith) was allowed to score unimpeded in the first minute. The club got a lot of praise for this gesture. A lot of credit goes to the management for letting Forest have the goal. We won match 3-2.

Gary Megson who succeeded Martin Allen as manager was only in post for six weeks and then Ian Holloway came in. It was difficult for the players with new managers trying to pick up from where other people had left off and put across new ideas.”

At the end of the season, Leicester City were relegated to League One for the first and only time in their history. In the close season, James went to South Africa with the ex-Club Chaplain Bruce Nadin, who remains a good friend, to do some charity work. He then moved on to Doncaster Rovers, newly promoted to the Championship.

He explained: “There was a clause in my contract allowing me to move on if Leicester got relegated. When I signed I thought that it was more likely that Leicester would be promoted. I did the pre-season working with the new manager Nigel Pearson and Craig Shakespeare. Then the opportunity came to join Doncaster in the Championship.

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James Chambers

Chambers battles with Chelsea defender Alex during the League Cup Fourth Round match at Stamford Bridge in October 2007.

“If I was to summarise my time at Leicester I really enjoyed my time there. The changes of managers didn’t necessarily work well for myself especially towards the end of the season when Ian Holloway didn’t play me too much but I remember some highlights.

“One was winning at Aston Villa in the League Cup. Another was losing 4-3 at Chelsea when we were 3-2 up with three minutes to go. It was heart breaking not to get anything out of that game. We did ever so well.

"At the time, Frank Burrows was caretaker manager. From memory, it was a patched up squad as well. Gareth McAuley, Carl Cort and DJ Campbell scored. We were very unlucky not to get something.

“These are all very fond memories. Also, from Leicester’s point of view, relegation to League One was the best thing that could have happened because that started the rebuilding process which has taken them on to where they are now.

“One of the reasons I left Leicester was that it gave me the chance to catch up with my old youth team coach Richard O’Kelly who was then the assistant manager at Doncaster. He is a very good family friend of ours and somebody I have a lot of time and respect for.

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James Chambers

Doncaster was Chambers' next destination after leaving King Power Stadium.

"If you recall watching Doncaster’s games in that period, we played some unbelievable football. We didn’t have stand-out stars or players that people might remember, but the style of football was a joy to play in.”

After two good seasons at Doncaster, James’ career was then badly affected by injury.

“I had a micro-fracture on my knee in two different places. I had thought it was just something minor needing a little operation. There was another player, John Oster who went in for an operation on the same day. He came out with good news and I came out with pretty bad news. I came back for a short spell but I was out for over a year-and-a-half.

“Whilst I was out injured, Richard O’Kelly and Doncaster’s manager and Sean O’Driscoll left the club and Dean Saunders came in. Richard went to Hereford as the manager so I had a spell there (in 2012) to try and get back fit.”

In August 2012 James moved to Walsall making nearly 100 appearance for the Saddlers.

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James Chambers

Walsall was his last destination in the Football League.

“My brother was playing at Walsall”, James said. “During that period we got to the 2015 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final against Bristol City at Wembley so I did get to run out on the Wembley turf eventually!”

James retired from league football in 2015 to concentrate on his business interests although he did play for National League North side Worcester City in 2016/17 until he had problems with his hamstring.

James concluded by saying: “I have been blessed in many different ways. I’ve had the opportunity to play football, something which I have loved for a long time. Also I’ve been able to play with my brother for a long period of time.

"I have made friends along the way. I have also played in big games at stadiums you dreamt of playing in as a kid, like Anfield and Stamford Bridge. These are all things that youngsters these days are trying to achieve and it just shows that it is out there for you.

"Andy King is a great example of this. I remember when I was at Leicester and he was a young player. You could tell he had the talent and the application to work hard. He has been able to achieve some unbelievable things for the club and for himself. It shows the younger generation that it is possible.”

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