Swansea City deeply saddened by passing of Leighton James

19th April
Leighton James

Swansea City is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Leighton James at the age of 71.

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.

James won 54 caps for Wales, scoring 10 goals including a famous penalty to secure victory over England at Wembley in 1977.

Hailing from Gorseinon, James initially made his name at Burnley – who, along with the Swans – were a club he became synonymous with.

Having made his senior debut in 1970, James was integral as the Clarets won the Second Division title in 1973, before making the move to Derby County for a then club-record fee of £310,000.

James spent two seasons at the Baseball Ground before joining Queens Park Rangers and then heading back to Burnley.

He would return to his homeland in 1980 when he joined Toshack’s upwardly-mobile Swans, and he was all but unplayable at times during his first season in Swans colours.

James would end the season with 16 league goals to his name, 18 in all competitions, and the aforementioned strike against Preston summed up his brilliance.

Receiving the ball on the left flank, tight to the touchline, James drove forward and infield to push his marker back towards the Preston box.

A drop of the shoulder allowed him to escape into the area before curling a brilliant, floating strike over the keeper and into the far corner.

He would also be part of two Welsh Cup triumphs during his two-and-a-half years with Swansea, before he departed for Sunderland in January 1983 with 27 goals from 98 league games under his belt.

James went on to have spells with Bury, Newport County and Burnley again before hanging up his boots at professional level.

He later held various coaching positions at a number of clubs, including Llanelli, before moving into media work as a columnist and pundit, where the directness and honesty he showed as a player continued to be in evidence.

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

Swansea City will wear black armbands in Saturday’s Championship fixture against Huddersfield Town as a mark of respect. 

Swansea City Under-21s will also wear black armbands in their home match against Bristol City on Saturday.