‘I shall never be able to forget it. I was standing almost under the West Brom bar and the cross was perfect. I could almost have swallowed it,’ Jimmy Husband recalled years later of the moment that would have made him a Wembley hero. ‘But just as I was about to stick it in, Alan Ball shouted. He did the right thing because he was probably in a good position but the call put me in two minds. It was my mistake. It was the biggest mistake I ever made. And I had to do it at Wembley.’ It came four minutes from the end of the 1968 FA Cup final and with the score deadlocked at 0-0 would almost certainly have seen off West Bromwich Albion. But an extra time winner from Jeff Astle – entirely against the run of play – won the cup for Albion and Husband’s mistake has come to overshadow a largely impressive career.
Born in Newcastle, the young Geordie first attracted attention as a 15 year-old England schoolboy international, quickly attracting comparisons with Jackie Milburn. Everton beat off a plethora of clubs, including Newcastle, to sign the youngster, who started out as an inside right. With his quick feet, teasing skill and low centre of gravity – which contributed to a mesmerising body swerve – he impressed Harry Catterick, making his debut, aged just seventeen, against Fulham in April 1965. That same month he helped Everton win the FA Youth Cup for the first time since the competition’s inauguration in 1953.
Over the following three seasons, Husband became established in the first team picking up seven England Under 23 caps, although full international honours eluded him. Catterick preferred him as an outside right, and it was here that he proved most potent, providing a supply line for the prolific Joe Royle. Husband nevertheless featured in most attacking positions, and was himself a regular name on the Everton scoresheet. His best season came in 1968/69 when he notched 20 goals in all competitions. The following term he played a part in the Blues’ Championship win although he was beset by injury, after which he seemed to lose confidence. Alan Whittle replaced him in the season’s run in, to immense effect.
Like so many of his teammates, post-1970 Husband struggled to hit top form again. He joined Luton Town in November 1973, where he spent four years. Then, like many of his contemporaries, he moved to the US to try his luck in the NASL with the Memphis Rogues, where he came under the management of Malcolm Allison.