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City fan Sam James aiming for a silver-lined send-off

By Jon Newcombe
Sale has added a layer of quality in recent years but is underpinning by local boys like Sam James who has made over 200 appearances for the club (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

Man City fan Sam James is hoping he’ll be celebrating one more piece of silverware this season as he bids to sign off his Sale Sharks career on a high.

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James was a wide-eyed supporter when the northern club won their one and only league title back in 2006, and was on the bench last year as they made their return to the Twickenham showpiece, only to lose 35-25 to Saracens.

But before they can book a return ticket this year, Sale have to defy the odds and win an away semi-final, at Bath. With Sale having lost there, 42-24 in December, after falling away in the final quarter, James knows they will have to play at their best to get the right result and extend his 12-year Sharks career by another week.

“It is going to be such a difficult game to pull any result out of there, against a star-studded Bath team, so we will have to be at 100%,” the 29-year-old said.

“It probably all hinges, like that previous game did, on the last 20 minutes when they took it away from us.

“If we want a result at all, we are going to have to last 80 minutes.”

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James has been with Sale man and boy and is part of a select group of players to have clocked up 200 appearances for the club.

But his long association with the Sharks is drawing to a close and as well as everything else, reaching the final would give him another week in what has often been described as the Sale ‘brotherhood’.

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“We’ve talked about during the season buying time with this group, so it’s nice to be given a bit more time with them,” he said.

“We’re a tight-knit group, it’s been growing all season and I think that’s what’s helped us through in the end – the fact that we have been so tight in the bad times we can celebrate the good times.”

Nothing has been signed yet because a lot hinges on the Pro D2 play-offs, and what sort of budget the unnamed club(s) chasing his signature will have for next season.

“It’s abroad, hopefully a French team,” was all that James could say when asked about the move.

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What he is free-and-easy to talk about, though, is City’s historic fourth consecutive Premier League title.

“There’s a fair few of us City fans – Tommy Taylor, Ben Bamber. Gus Creevy, I think, has now been turned that way because he seems to be best mates with the strike that plays for Argentina, Alvarez.

“I find it funny because all the lads that actually come from Manchester are City fans. The only United fans are like the Byron McGuigans and the Jono Ross’, people from Namibia and South Africa, who supported them for the glory back in the day.

“I used to go (and watch) and get shouted at a lot. I’d be in the standing section with the proper City fans and everyone would be telling me I am too tall and to sit down so I would spend half the time squatting on the seat in front so the people behind me could see.”

6’4 James can hold his head high, in every sense of the word, even if Sale do come up short. Few players are more popular with the fans than the versatile back who can play fly-half, centre or full-back and won the Player of the Match award in the last home game of the season against Leicester.

It is a reciprocal relationship, and one that he is thankful for.

“I think it’ll just be a proud moment, I’ll be playing for all my family – my wife, my parents and now my child,” he said when asked what winning the league would mean to him.

“They have been the ones supporting me through my whole Sale career, so I’ll be playing for them and hopefully winning it for them would be massive, as well as obviously the club and all the supporters who have been so nice to me over the years. We’re one big family up here.”

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