Within days of signing for Everton in April 1928, Scottish international inside forward Jimmy Dunn witnessed what was arguably Goodison’s greatest occasion. On the day that Everton sealed the 1927/28 League Championship, Dunn was named as twelfth man, the player who as on stand by lest any of the First XI unexpectedly withdrew before kick off. Not only was he a close witness to his new team-mates lifting the title after a 3-3 draw with Arsenal, he watched his new forward partner William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean score his 58th, 59th and 60th goals of the season and enter football immortality.
IT WAS A reminder to the Scot of the lofty expectations he would have to live up to, but Dunn had already experienced highs of his own. Five weeks earlier he was one of the ‘Wembley Wizards’ – the incomparable Scottish team that beat England 5-1 on the site of 1920s football’s greatest temple. Dunn’s £5000 transfer to Goodison from Hibernian in April 1928 concluded a 15-month pursuit of the player. Everton’s directors made several visits north of the border in an attempt to sign Dunn and his team-mate, the winger Harry Ritchie, but the Edinburgh club would not relent. Finally they accepted a £5000 offer for Dunn just weeks after the Wembley massacre, resisting an £8000 joint bid for the pair. On the same day Jimmy Stein arrived from Dunfirmline. Everton would have to wait until the end of the summer before Ritchie was also an Everton player. Expectation was soon higher than ever.
After appearing in the annual Blues v. Whites trial match Dunn received rave notices. ‘Naturally, chief interest centred on the appearance of Dunn, one of the men who helped Scotland to nip the English rose “in the bud” at Wembley last season, and they went home convinced that in this diminutive auburn-haired Scot the champions had found a man with football written all over him,’ wrote the Liverpool Courier. ‘This was only a trial game, it is true, but [good] football in the main, just the same as truth in all walks of life, will out. Possessed of a most deceptive body swerve, he manipulates the ball with rare skill, and passes with extreme delicacy. Quick to size up a situation, he passed last evening to the right man nine times out of ten, and with this link in the chain (that was missing for a greater part of last campaign) fully forged, it was no wonder that Dean and company had a merry time, much to the discomfiture of the White’s defence. Dunn will fit in splendidly with the Goodison scheme of things.’
Days later Everton captured Ritchie and expectation rose even higher. After beating Bolton on the opening day of 1928/29 the Courier pondered: ‘A Championship again and an FA Cup?’ Of Dunn it wrote that he ‘showed that he is a player who believes in making the ball do the work, and many of the most deadly of the champions’ thrusts could be traced back to his astute initiation.’
ALAS SUCH hopes appeared misplaced. Everton lost the last six games of the season and finished 18th. It set a worrying precedent. In the 1929/30 season they finished bottom, Dunn making just 12 league appearances.
What followed over the following three years was as remarkable as Everton’s sudden fall. In 1930/31 they stormed to the Division Two title, Dunn scoring 14 goals in 28 games – only Dean managing more. A year later Everton were First Division Champions, Dunn this time managing to earn a medal for the triumph he had witnessed just days into his Everton career. A year after that, in April 1933, Dunn was back at Wembley – the scene of his greatest day – adding another unforgettable occasion to his memory bank. Everton beat Manchester City 3-0, Dunn heading home Everton’s third from a corner.
The importance of Dunn’s contribution was not limited to a sucker-punch goal. Everton had utilised their forwards in withdrawn positions to nullify City’s own potent forward line and their diligence reaped dividends. ‘One could not describe this as a thrilling game. Yet it was a match which thoroughly satisfied the football student and that is why I term it a joyous final,’ recorded ‘Pilot’ in the Liverpool Evening Express.
‘Everton served up delightful football. It was not quite according to their usual plan, for [fellow inside forward Tommy] Johnson and Dunn lay back more than is their usual wont. Yet this was according to a preconceived move to counteract the match-winning methods of the City, which had been studied for six weeks. Everton knew the Manchester’s goal- scoring moves were developed by Busby, the right half-back sweeping a square pass cross to McMullan, the inside left, in that way the complete outlook of the game was changed.
The blues knew all about it, and so Johnson came back to force Busby to part, and Jimmy Dunn lay on McMullan, so keeping him out of action. What was the result? The City floundered for want of a good move. Most of the Everton raiding was left to Dean, and the wingers and they played their parts well. Johnson and Dunn were parted defenders but they could make those lovely sweeping passes up the middle or out to the wings after drawing the opposition.’
The Cup winning triumph was the end for the great team of the early 1930s and Everton entered a period of transition. Dunn lost his place to Jimmy ‘Nat’ Cunliffe midway through the 1933/34 season and played only intermittently thereafter. He appears to have been a victim of the maximum wage system inflicted on players at the time. While still an Everton player his financial difficulties were discussed in the Everton boardroom but ‘no action taken’. In December 1936 he offered his FA Cup medals for sale for 5 guineas, but the Everton board said ‘no’.
IN 1935 Dunn joined Exeter for £350 and subsequently played for Runcorn before turning to coaching. In January 1945 a minute of the Everton board records: ‘Good reports on the play of this young son of James Dunn, former player of ours, were received & it was agreed that the Secretary pursue efforts to obtain the boy’s services.’ But Jimmy junior – perhaps put off by his father’s inhospitable treatment – never joined Everton, instead pursuing a distinguished career with Wolves and Derby County, lifting the 1949 FA Cup with the former after a 3-1 victory over Leicester.