striker John “Jesse” James has sadly passed
away at the age of 72. John joined Chester in February
1973 and scored 40 goals in 98 Football League matches
but will best be remembered for his goalscoring exploits
in the 1974/75 League Cup campaign when he put League
champions Leeds United to the sword with two goals in
an amazing 3-0 victory. The big number 10 followed that
up with the only goal in the 5th round replay against
another First Division side, Newcastle United, before
Chester's glorious run was ended by Aston Villa at the
semi-final stage. For a few short weeks in 1974 his
name was on everyones lips as pictures of him raising
both arms in triumph in front of a packed Sealand Road
and filling his goalscoring boot with beer adorned the
back pages of the national newspapers.
John’s sad passing comes only
days after that of legendary manager Ken Roberts who
signed him from Port Vale for £5,000 and paired
him with Derek Draper to form a deadly if unconventional
looking forward partnership. The wily Draper proved
a perfect foil for the wholehearted striker who seemed
to spend much of the game on the ground as he threw
himself at every ball ensuring that he never came off
the pitch without being covered in mud having given
100%. When upright, he would roam the field with his
trademark long blue and white sleeves pulled down past
his wrists and shirt cuffs gripped tightly in his fingers
looking like he was suffering badly from the cold but
appearances were deceptive and he was a handful for
every defender. He may not have been blessed with pace
and his goals were never spectacular but he knew where
to find the back of the net and was deadly in the six
yard box. Coupled with an unerring ability to win free
kicks and hold the ball up, he was a perfect striker
for the time and a key figure in that successful 1974/75
Born in Stone in 1948 John signed
professional terms with Port Vale in April 1966. He
went on to make 210 league appearances at Vale Park,
scoring 39 goals, and was a member of their promotion
winning team in 1969/70. In February 1973 he moved to
Sealand Road and made an instant impression with a goal
on his debut as the Seals produced their best performance
of the season in beating struggling Darlington 5-0.
He went on to score another five goals that campaign.
The 1973/74 season proved to be John’s
most prolific as he netted 21 times in the league, the
first player to score more than 20 league goals since
Gary Talbot in 1968/69. He was in top form when champions
Leeds United visited a stadium packed to the rafters
and 'Jamo' raised the roof when he crashed the ball
past David Harvey at the second attempt to open the
scoring. He followed this up with a second half penalty
to sew up the most famous of all giant-killing acts.
In the next round.
Chester forced a goalless draw at Newcastle and in the
replay it was John who was on hand to profit from a
knock down by Trevor Storton and force the ball home
from barely two yards. Once again he was on target in
the second leg of the losing semi-final against Aston
Villa but a March injury saw him add only two more goals
as Chester won promotion for the first time.
After featuring in the first game
in Division Three, at Crystal Palace, John was replaced
by Barney Daniels and the following month moved to Tranmere
Rovers in an exchange deal with Paul Crossley. He regained
his goalscoring form at Prenton Park scoring 19 times
in 38 games as Rovers won promotion to Division Three.
A spell with Chicago Sting in the NASL was followed
by a return to Tranmere before a move into non-league
football with Stafford Rangers.
The club send out their condolences
to his family and friends.
James salutes the Kop after scoring against Newcastle
United in December 1974 (Cheshire Observer).