In the last week of April 1928, while Dixie Dean was setting a Football League scoring record that will never be broken, Everton’s board were in the process of forming the club’s next great forward line. From Hibernian they acquired inside forward Jimmy Dunn for a fee of £5,000, and from Dunfermline Athletic the winger, Jimmy Stein, for £1,400. Over subsequent years this pair of canny Scots would help propel Dixie and Everton to even greater glories.
Prior to his arrival, Stein had already spent an unsuccessful period in England as a youngster with Blackburn Rovers, but returned to Scotland with Dunfermline. He helped the Fife club to promotion from the Scottish Second Division in the 1925/26 season and was soon attracting the attracted the attention of a several English clubs. But it was Everton who made the move, and Stein’s fee would represent a fine bargain.
Yet Stein’s early days at Goodison were spent unhappily. He mustered just five appearances in 1928/29 season, and when he did establish himself in the side, at the expense of fellow countryman Alec Troup, he was part of the team which slumped to relegation for the first time in the club’s history. Stein’s qualities, nevertheless, were abundantly obvious to all who saw him. ‘When in the mood this dashing Scot is a most persistent raider, who shoots hard from acute angles,’ recorded one newspaper profile. ‘A corner kick specialist… [Stein] also known how to curl his centres to Dean, who has obtained many of his goals, as a result of Stein's ability to place the ball at the required altitude and distance.’ A speciality of his came in a corner kick routine in conjunction with the inside forward Tommy Johnson: Johnson would block the path of the goalkeeper and Stein would curl a kick straight into the net. The tactic earned him three goals in the 1932/33 season alone, when he finished Everton’s second leading scorer.
Success followed the crushing failure of his first days at Goodison. He won the Second Division Championship in the 1930/31 season and the League Championship a year later. Full international honours were nevertheless elusive, a fact surely attributable to the prevailing bias of the country’s selectors to the so-called ‘Anglos’ who plied their trade in England.
Stein’s crowning glory came in the 1933 FA Cup Final against Manchester City. He had been in scintillating form all season and he had already scored five goals in Everton’s five game march to the final. Evertonians even composed a doggerel in tribute to the wing wizard:
After the ball had been centred,
After the whistle blew,
We passed it to Tommy Johnson, and he showed them what to do.
He slipped it along to Stein –and down, the wing he flew,
He lobbed it into the goalmouth, and
Dixie banged it through.
Stein did not disappoint. ‘We had a good, solid, fit, tidy team and we just seemed to take City for a ride,’ recalled Dixie Dean. ‘Our lads played well and one of the sharpest in our forward line was Jimmy Stein, the outside left. There was no getting away from it, he was a good player that lad.’ Stein’s moment of glory came in the fortieth minute when Len Langford, the City goalkeeper, dropped a cross from Cliff Britton and Stein stabbed home from close range to open the score. ‘When I saw the ball strike the back of the net I knew it was a match-winning goal,’ reported Pilot in the Liverpool Evening Express. ‘Without exaggeration you could see the Manchester players reel under this blow. It took the heart out of them, and they never recovered.’
Dean remembered: ‘I told the lads in the dressing room at half time: “Whatever else you do, get the ball into that goal area. Don’t be trying to beat another man. Just get that ball over.”’ Another Britton cross yielded another fumble from the hapless City keeper and Dean doubled the score. The victory was completed with ten minutes to go when Dunn headed home a Geldard cross.
‘Stein always a match winner, was kept idle for long stretches, but in the first half showed unmistakably how he had rattled the City defences,’ reported the Liverpool Post and Mercury. ‘Stein had not one of his spectacular “running” days any more than Geldard had his share; the truth was the ball did not go that way to any degree. This match was won through team spirit and consistent endeavour through the combined measures.’ He was, added Pilot, ‘the chief foil. His sweeping touch-line runs and cunning swirling centres often caught Langford in two minds, and with any luck they would have brought goals. His corner-kicking, too, was perfect. Congratulations to Stein on getting the most important goal of the game! He proved himself a fine match winner.’
Stein was ever present in the 1933/34 season, but found the lively Jackie Coulter vying for his place thereafter. He moved to Burnley in October 1936 in a £2,000 joint deal that also took Dusty Miller to Turf Moor. It was later suggested that this transfer lay the ground for Tommy Lawton’s move the opposite direction several months later. Stein briefly played alongside the young prodigy before he joined Everton. The Scot later returned to Merseyside to play for New Brighton. Upon his retirement from playing, he returned to Burnley where he took up a scouting job.