Even more than half a century years after Everton’s record defeat to Tottenham Hotspur (which is also a record top flight aggegate scoreline), few can be more perplexed by that strange day in Autumn 1958 than Jimmy Harris. The Wirral born player was a regular across the Everton forward lines of the late 1950s, in one year finishing top scorer, but never would he hit a hat trick except for the day that Everton also happened to concede ten.
Even if that minor detail overshadowed what should have been his finest hour in a blue shirt, Harris’s Everton career was one of distinction, despite the hard times in which he often found himself playing.
Born in the shadow of Tranmere’s Prenton Park, Harris signed for Everton after one of his Aunts had recommended him for a trial. Not until August 1955 – just past his 22nd birthday – did he make his Everton debut, but his ascent to the first team brought great optimism – to the extent that Dave Hickson – Goodison’s talisman – was sold to Aston Villa partly in order to accommodate the forward.
Harris repaid this confidence, scoring 21 League and FA Cup goals in his debut season. Although Everton finished a disappointing fifteenth, they reached the quarter finals of the FA Cup. ‘We felt we had a good chance of reaching Wembley in 1956,’ Harris later recalled. ‘We went to Manchester City in the quarter finals and put on a terrific display in the first half only to be frustrated by Bert Trautmann, their German goalkeeper. I managed to beat him once and it could have been 2-0 only for a terrific save from Eddie Wainwright just before the interval. But our defence fell away after that and we lost 2-1. That was a great disappointment after we’d played so well.’
Harris’s outstanding debut season saw him rewarded with England Under-23 recognition. With his whippet-like pace, close control and accurate finishing he looked set for more honours, but injuries and loss of form during the 1956/57 season saw him derided a one season wonder. However, the return of Hickson, the man he had been slated to replace, in summer 1957 witnessed a return to form.
Moved out to the right wing in order to accommodate the ‘Cannonball Kid’, Harris established himself as one of the country’s deadliest widemen. The goals returned and he finished the 1957/58 season second top scorer with 14 goals – five more than Hickson.
After Hickson’s shock departure to Liverpool in 1959, Harris was often asked to deputise as centre forward. Although selected for the Football League representative side in 1960, he found himself increasingly marginalised by the expensive signings brought in with John Moores’ millions. With the arrival of Alex Young in November 1960 and the emergence of Frank Wignall, Harris was deemed surplus by Johnny Carey and a £20,000 bid from Birmingham City in December 1960 was considered too good to turn down.
At St Andrews, Harris helped Birmingham reach the 1961 Inter City Fairs Final and win the 1963 League Cup. He later played for Oldham Athletic and Dublin side, St Patricks before briefly taking up a coaching job with Tranmere Rovers. On leaving football he took up a job at the Vauxhall car plant on his native Wirral and remains a regular visitor to Goodison Park.