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Former Wales winger Leighton James dies, aged 71

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Apr 2024

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Former Wales winger Leighton James has died at the age of 71.

James’ former clubs Burnley and Swansea – where he spent 13 years of a colourful 19-year senior career – were among those to pay tribute to a gifted player who won 54 caps for his country.

“We are sorry to hear the news of Leighton’s passing,” Burnley chairman Alan Pace said of James, who had three spells at Turf Moor and scored 81 goals in 399 appearances for the Clarets.

“He left an indelible mark on this football club and stories of his playing skills still echo around Turf Moor.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Swansea-born James made his Burnley debut in 1970 – his pace and trickery quickly making him a Clarets’ favourite – before joining Derby for a then club-record fee of £310,000 and having a one-season stop at QPR.

James returned to Burnley in 1978 before joining his hometown club two years later and helping their rise in to the old First Division under John Toshack.

“Swansea City is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Leighton James at the age of 71,” read a club statement.

“The gifted winger, widely-regarded as one of the Swans’ finest players, was a key figure in the side that secured a first-ever promotion to the top-flight in 1981, scoring a stunning goal in the victory over Preston North End at Deepdale to complete the club’s rise.

“He went on to star the following campaign as John Toshack’s side took the fight to the elite of English football, eventually finishing sixth in the First Division.

“The thoughts of everyone at Swansea City are with Leighton’s friends and family at this sad time.”

After three years at Swansea, James went on to play for Sunderland, Bury and Newport before taking his career full circle with a third spell at Burnley.

James’ 10 international goals included the match-winning penalty against England in the 1976-77 British Home Championship – Wales’ only ever victory against their neighbours at Wembley.

The Football Association of Wales posted on X: “It is with great sadness that we share the news that @Cymru international Leighton James has sadly passed away.

“Amongst his most famous moments with the dragon on his shirt was scoring a penalty in a famous win over England at Wembley in 1977.

“He was a star of the only Cymru team to top a qualifying group before going on to reach the quarter-finals of Euro 1976.”

James held various coaching positions in South Wales after his playing career and worked in the media, where he developed a reputation as a forthright columnist and pundit.

Both Burnley and Swansea have confirmed they will wear black armbands in their respective matches against Sheffield United and Huddersfield on Saturday as a tribute to James.

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