Local left back Jimmy Tansey was a stalwart of Everton's mid-1950s strugglers, a man senior in age to many of the young hopefuls in whom Everton's future was staked, though not in terms of first class appearances. Indeed, in a career interrupted by national service, Tansey had to wait until his mid-twenties for a regular run in the Everton first XI.
Yet when given the chance he showed himself to be a leader among Everton's young Turks. 'He was a good player Jimmy, a good man to have on your side,' the wing half Ken Rea told this author in 2011. ‘He used to talk to you all on the field. He advised people and was a smashing fella within himself. He never shouted at you or bawled at you, he just told you what to do. He was a bit of a leader.'
His chance came at the start of the 1955/56 season when he took the place of Irish left back Don Donovan. Yet although popular with his teammates, the Goodison faithful could be unforgiving. ‘With his bandy-legged gait and rather deliberate style, left back Jimmy Tansey presented an at times irresistible target for frustrated Goodison Park fans as Everton struggled throughout the fifties,’ wrote the football historian Ivan Ponting. ‘Yet behind the occasional baiting was genuine respect for a whole-hearted and thoughtful competitor.’
Derek Temple, himself then a young hopeful, said that Tansey was underrated. ‘Jimmy was a cracking fella, a real character,’ he said in 2011. ‘Not the quickest - none of them were quick and Jimmy didn't like a quick player chasing at him. But he used to figure them out. It was a question of tactics then: getting someone to help him a bit. He made quite a number of appearances so he didn't do too badly.’
Temple, who came up against many a fearsome full back, said that the position was far less elaborate in the 1950s than its modern equivalent. ‘Full backs in those days were good footballers, but they didn't play football in the way they do now,’ he said. ‘The game has changed in that respect. They were strong, they could hit a long ball for fellas to make a break from deep. If they had quick players they could very often get goals from it.’ Not until he found himself lining up alongside the lithe, whippet-like Ray Wilson the following decade did he play alongside someone that could be construed as a modern defender-cum-attacker in the full back berth.
Tansey held his own in the Everton team until the 1958/59 season, when John Bramwell was preferred to him. The following year T. E. Jones was moved to left back to facilitate the emergent Brian Labone at centre half and chances became even harder to come by. Now past his thirtieth birthday he was enticed by a £500 move to Crewe Alexandra in in June 1960 and he played out his career at Gresty Road.