David James takes aim at the 1966 World Cup final and, in one swing, shatters part of the myth. “As a game of football, it was rubbish, wasn't it?” the England goalkeeper says. “We behold this event in the world of English football and most people haven't seen it in its entirety. When I did, I was thinking, ‘This is loose.’”
James says England travel to South Africa with confidence, and not only because of the unfussy manner of their qualification. The squad, he feels, has the components to face any challenge.
“Of course we have got that,” James said. “I'm not going to mention names specifically but anything you need in a game of football, we have the player capable of doing it. Mr Capello will be looking at it, in essence, as being a squad rather than 11 players who just want to go and beat anyone. It will be: ‘I've got 23 players that I can pick from to go out and batter teams or defend and score on the break.’
“I expect 100 per cent performances in each game. And the confidence I have is that England as a team, playing 100 per cent — we don't get beaten. Simple as that.”
The notion of it being a squad game is highlighted by the goalkeeping situation. James, Robert Green and Joe Hart, the squad's three keepers, find themselves on a knife-edge.
“There have been times in the past, in earlier years, when you would just hate the person in front of you,” he says.
“You'd sit on the bench saying, ‘Go on, let one in. Go on, through your legs,’ all that stuff, and wish them all the worst.
“I don't look at this World Cup as a personal mission. I look at it as a team mission. Yes, you want to be No1, you want to play every game and lift the World Cup, but if that doesn't happen it will be a case of: ‘If I'm there, my contribution will have aided whatever success we have.’
James won his 50th cap in the friendly victory over Japan on Sunday to join Banks, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and Seaman in reaching the landmark. But it seems as if an age has passed since his first. “Mexico, 1997, 2-0, Wembley, bang,” he said. “It was a bad game for me. I gave my gloves away to some kid and he didn't seem that impressed.”
He has come a long way since his formative days, and the World Cup finals appear set for James as a swansong.