London, England - Monday, December 2, 1996: Liverpool's goalkeeper David James in action during the 2-0 Premier League victory over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Grobbelaar, Melwood and “a steamy bus” – David James’ first Liverpool impressions

David James joined Liverpool in 1992 and arrived while his idol Bruce Grobbelaar was still between the sticks at Anfield, a time when modern luxuries were not always on hand.

While he first had to bide his time behind Grobbelaar, James went on to play 277 matches for the Reds during a period that saw silverware dry up, with the 1995 League Cup his first and only honour.

It is in direct contrast to Grobbelaar, who made 628 appearances and lifted 13 pieces of silverware in a glittering career for Liverpool spanning 13 years.

The two became teammates in 1992 but crossed paths before then, with James recalling with This Is Anfield the time he made a mad dash in an attempt to help his idol.

“I’m a Luton Town fan, so as a kid I would see Bruce playing at Luton,” James explained.

“And when I was an apprentice at Watford, Liverpool came down, it was a sunny day and Bruce didn’t have a baseball cap.


“And I ran up to the Watford shop to buy him a baseball cap! Brought it back down, it had Watford on it and he kind of looked at it and went ‘oh, I can’t wear that’.

“I’ve gone ‘oh, no. I’ve upset my idol almost’!

“But to see Bruce when I joined the club was amazing, he is an amazing man. It was a wonderful partnership.

“I like Bruce’s goalkeeping style, therefore you kind of like the person even though you don’t know them. When I joined the club he was as good as the person I thought he’d be.”

And the relationship with Grobbelaar will have been key for James as Liverpool did not employ a goalkeeping coach in the early 1990s, not to mention Melwood at the time was a stark contrast to the AXA Training Centre.

“The first impression [of Liverpool] was getting changed here at Anfield, jumping on a bus and then driving to Melwood to train because it was literally the pitches and that was it,” James explained.

“We didn’t have a goalkeeping coach either so it was something different for me because at Watford we had one. Quite a lot of things were different in that sense.

Liverpool's goalkeepers Alex Chamberlain (L) and David James at the club's Melwood Training Ground. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda).

“A fond memory was when it was getting cold and we would get changed here [Anfield], go to Melwood to train, get soaking wet and muddy and sit on the bus on the way back with no air conditioning so all the windows were steaming up.

“It doesn’t happen nowadays! I can’t imagine Jurgen and the team getting on a steamy bus!”

You’re probably right there, David!