England international Jimmy Settle arrived at Goodison in April 1899 amidst one of the most dramatic overhauls of personnel in the club’s short history. Everton had been strongly challenging league leaders Aston Villa all through the 1898/99 season, but in the final weeks of the campaign their form collapsed dramatically, winning just one of their final eight league games and finishing three positions and seven points off the top of the table.
Frustrated by the team’s decline the Everton board were spurred into action, spending big to ensure that they would not be nearly men again. From Burnley came the centre forward Wilf Toman, from Aston Villa the brothers Jack and Bert Sharp, a winger and a full back respectively. And from Bury, Everton sought the centre-half Joe Leeming and England forward, Jimmy Settle. The defender remained at Gigg Lane, but the forward was Everton’s for the sum of £400.
Toman’s career would be ended by a devastating compound fracture of his leg seventeen months later, while Bert Sharp never made the Goodison grade. But Sharp and Settle would be mainstays of an Everton attack through the rest of the decade. League Championship honours would prove elusive, but the pair shared international recognition and the 1906 FA Cup success.
Settle had started out with Blackburn Rovers, but found success as an inside forward after joining Bury, then playing in the top flight. His form was prodigious, notching 28 goals in just 63 league appearances and earning an England call up in the spring of 1899. Weeks later he was an Everton player, part of the ‘strenuous endeavours’ by the Everton board ‘to improve the team.’
‘The forward's line promises to be a stronger, and better balanced lot than has represented the club for some seasons,’ reported the Liverpool Mercury. ‘J.Sharp will, with Settle form the right wing, with Toman in the centre. The left will probably cause some difficulty in deciding upon, as there appears to be a wealth of talent to select from.’
Settle was a tough, stocky, but skilful player, who possessed a devastating turn of pace and was an instinctive finisher. In teams that were not prolific he was an important contributor of goals, and his tally of 18 in the 1901/02 season saw him ranked as the First Division’s top scorer.
A hat trick display against Wolves in September 1901 exemplified his skill and illustrated his omnipresent threat to opponents. ‘Suddenly Settle got the ball and passed out to Bell, and dashed away, and sent in a shot, which struck the goalkeeper,’ reported the Liverpool Courier of his first goal. ‘In the melee Settle rushed up and banged the ball into the net, scoring the first goal for Everton.’ His second came soon after: ‘Sharp had the misfortunate to place the ball into the wrong side of the upright, but coming again, Taylor got in a timely pass to Settle, who after leaving the ball followed it up and planted it in the net, amid terrific cheering. The second goal was distinctly pleasing to the crowd.’ By half time his treble was complete: ‘He dodged several opponents very trickily, and finished up by crediting himself with the third of the match. It was a brilliant effort, which deserved the applause, with which it was received. From now to the interval the ball was rapidly transferred from end to end, but nothing further was secured.’
‘Full of dash and trickery, he was a constant source of danger to the Wolves defence, and nothing could been more deftly executed than the movements, which enabled him to score goals, number two and three’ added the Liverpool Mercury. ‘The second was the result of pretty manouevre, but the third was the outcome of pure doggedness, and irresistibility of purpose, for he beat fully half a dozen opponents before shooting.’
His form saw him recalled to the England team. But although he was to score a goal per game, his international career was marked by tragedy. On Saturday 5 April 1902, England met Scotland in the Home International Championship decider at Ibrox and Settle was in the forward line. ‘One minute the game was proceeding calmly and being keenly followed by the vast concourse,’ recalled Steve Bloomer, who was lining up alongside him in the forward line. ‘The next minute there was a terrible crash like the many peals of thunder in a great storm joining together in unison. The players stood as though rooted to the spot and there before our eyes we saw part of a huge stand, packed with people, crashing to the ground. The memory of that awful picture is still with me, with people crashing through iron railings as if they were matchwood. The groans, cries of fear and the uproar which followed beggars description.’ A wooden stand had collapsed plunging spectators forty feet through broken boards, killing 26 and injuring 500.
More happy times lay at Goodison. The perennial nearly-men of the era twice finished league runners up, but in 1906 Settle finally got his hand on silverware when Everton beat Newcastle to win the FA Cup. He was in the side that the final to Sheffield Wednesday a year later, but a poor 1907/08 season, in which Everton finished fourteenth, suggested a team in decline. At the end of the season the Everton directors, who had recently brought in Val Harris, Bert Freeman and John Coleman, sought a clean sweep. Settle, along with fellow stalwarts Tom Booth, Jack Crelley and Walter Abbott were transfer listed and for £200 Stockport County were the beneficiaries of the forward’s experience.