This day in football history
On 18 February 1998, Llanelli player-manager Robbie James collapsed and died during a match against Porthcawl Town. He was 40 years old.
Born in Swansea in 1957, James spent the first nine seasons of his career with his hometown club, Swansea City, joining them in 1973. At the time, the Swans were in the Welsh Third Division and quickly slipped down to the Fourth Division. But the arrival of new manager John Toshack in March 1978 heralded a reversal of fortune and James, described by The Independent as “an indefatigably competitive attacking midfielder,” proved instrumental in taking them all the way to the top flight for the 1981–82 season.
After making 394 league appearances (and scoring 99 goals) for Swansea, James left in 1983 for Stoke City (1983–84), then QPR (1984–87) and Leicester (1987–88), before returning to Swansea in 1988. They were back in the Fourth Division, but James once again lifted them to the Third Division. But he moved again in 1990, spending time with Bradford City and Cardiff City before moving to non-league side Merthyr Tydfill, then landing at Llanelli as player-manager.
He was playing for Llanelli against Porthcawl Town when he collapsed and died from a heart attack. The Independent reported that “To the very last he played the game the only way he knew how, with every ounce of his being.”
Over the course of his career, he made 782 league appearances, scoring 133 goals and winning five Welsh Cups.