When I started this series there was this bell ringing, not a full blown Closter Bell clanging away but a slight jingling noise. I remembered being told, many years ago, that we once gave a trial to an American player who had gone to the World Cup but we had not taken him on, and to honest at that point I tended to ignore the tale. Now I went in search of Jim Brown. This is what I discovered.
Jim Brown was born on new years eve 1908 in Scotland. He was one of four brothers, two of them played professional football, one winning an Scotland cap. He got a job in the local shipyards aged 13. Jim then moved to the USA in 1926 to look for his father, an American citizen. He played as an amateur for several American teams. Leading up to the 1930 World Cup he turned professional with the New York Giants (1) in the American Soccer League. Chosen for the national team to compete at the World Cup in Uruguay after three ’try-out’ matches were held to pick a team. Sixteen players traveled to South America, although the USA played the same team in each game. One of them James Gentle from Philadelphia it has been suggested was chosen because he was the only one in the party to speak Spanish.
Above the only picture (2) I could find of Jim with teh USA team at the World Cup. Jim is front row first on left.
Front row center is Bert Patenaude.
Update - I have since found this picture of Jim during his Spurs period in 1936.
The Uruguayan press wrote of that USA team "They all are talented athletes who play a smooth game and use their bodies well although occasionally they commit fouls. They have a remarkable domination on high balls which can be paralleled only by the great British and especially Scottish professional teams, whose way of playing perhaps they follow, but without monotonous precision and with much more vitality and enthusiasm. The full backs get rid of the ball with power and assurance. The midfield line defends, mixing very well with the fullbacks and giving remarkable help to the forwards, who have a wonderful kick that they utilize for passes and for sending high balls in to the goal area to exploit their superior heading capacities."
They then met Argentina in the Semi-final. The two teams had met two years earlier in the Olympics when Argentina won 11-2. The press previewed the game as it "Presented a contrast between two soccer schools, the short passing and polished skills of the South Americans and the athletic game in the air and long balls of the North Americans." The Argentinean’s also showed the other side of their game. In the first 15 minutes the US goalkeeper suffered a knee injury and had difficulty moving. one of the other players received what would later be diagnosed as a broken leg. He played on to half time but the Americans played the second half with ten men losing 6-1. Jim scoring their goal in the last minute.
The American coach wrote after the game "I honestly believe that the Argentineans were a little better team than we were, due to their having played together for many years. However, I believe the unbiased footballer would have given us a good chance to win if we could have kept our eleven players in the game and uninjured." He blamed the Belgian referee for letting the Argentineans get away with dirty play. Billy Gonsalves, “the Babe Ruth of American soccer,” called the game “murder” and said, “They crippled Douglas, deliberately, they broke Tracey’s leg, they hit Auld.”
The USA’s last International before that World Cup had been a full 18 months earlier. A draw in Poland. After the competition the US team toured around South America playing games including a full international with Brazil. This would be Jim’s fourth and last cap. Brazil won 4-3.
The USA did not play another international until they arrived in Italy for the 1934 tournament. When because of a late entry they played Mexico in Italy as a qualifying game. They won the game and competed in the competition despite only playing one international between tournaments.
Jim returned to the USA in time for the ‘Fall’ season of 1930, for his club under their new name NY Soccer Club. The following year he moved to the Brooklyn Wanderers. However the American Soccer League was about to collapse. 1932 being its last season. Jim returned to the UK and being a professional player several clubs were waiting for his ship to dock. Manchester United hire a tugboat, sailed out to meet the ship and signed him before it docked at Liverpool.
Jim played for United for two years and scored 17 times in 40 games. Including direct from a free kick on his debut. He was however very outspoken about players rights and that they should have a union. He was transferred to Brentford. Where he made one first team appearance but scored more than fifty goals for the reserves. Once again his views on unions put him at odds with the club.
In September 1936 Tottenham took him on trial. He played four games for the first team in a seven week period, Bradford at home, then Barnsley, Swansea and Aston Villa all away. He also played more than 20 games for the reserves and other club sides.
After his trial ended he moved to Guildford City in the Southern League and scored 148 times in two years with them before moving back to Scotland and played for Clyde.
When he retired as a footballer he returned to work in the shipyards for nearly ten years. He then returned to America, where he coached and help set up the Connecticut State Amateur League. He was inducted into the USA Hall of Fame in 1986. Where incidentally he stands alongside his own son, George Brown.
Notes - 1 - Not to be confused with the current NFL team, a number of teams have carried the same name over the years, including in baseball side.
2 - Article updated 2018 when I found the head and shoulders picture of Jim during his Spurs period.
Image - FIFA, Thanks - USA Soccer Hall of Fame, BBC, THFC, FIFA, Phillysoccerpage, The Times, The Guardian,
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