By Philip O'Connor
VESTMANNAEYJAR, Iceland (Reuters) - Former England goalkeeper David James has always had a reputation for doing his own thing so it was hardly a surprise that he played his 1000th senior football match in an unlikely venue.
That career milestone was reached between the posts for Icelandic top-flight side IBV Vestmannajyaer, based on a small island off the country's south coast.
"I've no regrets," the 43-year-old told Reuters in an interview. "I'm happy wherever I am."
James's career in England was winding down at Bournemouth when the call came from former Portsmouth team mate Herman Hreidarsson who had returned to his native country to manage the club.
"I came out and had to have a look at the set-up. I didn't know the teams, I hadn't seen any of it on TV, but it didn't take long to convince me," James said.
"I liked Reykjavik as a city and though the island of Vestmannajyaer is completely different, I've fallen in love with the place."
Seeing the move to the remote island as a great opportunity to further his coaching education, James joined IBV as assistant manager to Hreidarsson and took on the goalkeeping duties.
It was his first time he had played for a club outside England and although there were a few offers during his career, it was only recently that James felt the desire to try something new.
"I was told there was interest when I was at Liverpool. I wasn't interested," he said in the warmth of the IBV clubhouse.
"There were opportunities to go to somewhere like Spain, but it was more important for me when I left Liverpool that I was in a position to get back in the England squad and that's the way I looked at it."
James remained in England, going on to represent Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth, with whom he won the FA Cup in 2008.
The move from Liverpool to Villa in 1999 extended his England career by around 10 years, his final cap coming in a 4-1 defeat by Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
His stay in Iceland has reawakened James's interest in the community side of football, something he says he lost touch with when he went to Liverpool.
"It's something I started learning when I was at Watford, about the community side of what football has," he said. "It wasn't until I went back to Portsmouth that I thought it's not just about kicking balls and winning games of football. It's what the club means in the community.
"And if you haven't noticed, come around here - there's kids and adults all wearing the kit, tracksuits, badges, hats, whatever. It's an intrinsic part of the island. That's what I love about it."
The move to this remote island, whose population of a little over four thousand would fit comfortably into Liverpool's Kop end, has re-energised James 23 years after making his debut as a professional for Watford.
He did not start kicking a ball until the relatively late age of nine or 10, but he cannot imagine a life without football and ideally he wants to combine media work and coaching when he hangs up his gloves.
He has contributed columns to the Observer newspaper in England for several years and recently started working as a pundit for BT Sport which broadcasts Premier League matches in the U.K.
"Going back a couple of years, everyone mentioned punditry work but it was not for me. There's many a pundit out there who will chuck out a cliche here, a cliche there and don't really analyse what's going on. I just thought ‘I can't do that, it doesn't make any sense.'
That soon changed when the invitation from BT came in, and James spotted the opportunity to combine playing, coaching and punditry as his career wound down.
"BT Sport asked me to come down, I saw the plan and all of a sudden there was a bit of enthusiasm about getting involved. The three or four games I've been involved with up to now have been getting progressively better.
"I'm enjoying that, but I want to have the qualifications to become a coach. At the same time, the BT thing is mostly weekends, so it should leave me plenty of time during the week to get involved with a local team up in Hertfordshire."
With the Iceladic season ending soon and his career as a pundit taking off, it is unlikely that James will continue playing much longer.
"I'm always happy being where I'm at, even if things aren't great. Because that's life, isn't it?"
(Editing by Ed Osmond)