Pompey mourn death of ex-right back

Keith James, left, playing in the Masters tournament. Picture: Mick Young
Keith James, left, playing in the Masters tournament. Picture: Mick Young

Former Pompey right-back Keith James has died at the age of 53.

James was found dead in a hotel room on December 19 with the cause still to be established.

He made six appearances for the Blues having come through the youth ranks to make his debut in May 1979.

The full-back was also part of Frank Burrows’ squad who won promotion from division four in 1979/80.

However, he was released by Burrows the following season and finished up in non-league football.

Alan Knight, who was part of the same youth team, paid tribute to James.

He said: ‘It’s very sad news about Keith, 53 is no age to go.

‘We started as apprentices at Pompey the same year and a couple of times also played for England under-18s together.

‘Keith played a lot of games for England and came close to matching Paul Allen’s record at the time, but could never really break into the Pompey team.

‘He was a good player, an attacking right-back who could also operate as a right wing-back.

‘I remember him as a terrific character, larger than life, a funny, funny guy, always a joker in the squad.

‘Frank Burrows let him go in the end and he had a trial at Norwich but it didn’t quite work out for him and he went into non-league football.

‘We lost contact, although he did play for Pompey in the Masters Tournament which used to be shown on Sky.

‘He was a great guy who made his team-mates smile whenever he was around and will be missed by many people.

‘It is very sad and my deepest condolences to his family.’

James made his debut as a substitute for Derek Showers in the 1-0 home defeat to Barnsley on May 5, 1979.

He then replaced right-back Peter Denyer for the last three matches of the season as the Blues finished seventh in division four.

Burrows’ side claimed promotion the following campaign, with James making two starts when John McLaughlin and Peter Ellis were unavailable for the role.

His final Pompey outing was in a 2-1 defeat against Walsall in March 1980 in front of a Fratton Park crowd of 21,785.

James went on to represent Hayes (two spells), Woking (two spells), Northwood, Southall, Maidenhead and Yeading.

He played in two FA Vase finals, losing with Southall and winning with Yeading.