High Blantyre, Lanarkshire born Jimmy Brownlie, known as “The Man with the Iron Clutch”, was an outstanding Scottish goalkeeper and manager. He began his football career with Blantyre Victoria in 1902. Having turned down the chance to sign for Celtic, almost his entire professional playing career, lasting from 1906 to 1923, was spent with Third Lanark. Written in Third Lanark’s history, are the words, “The best thing that ever happened to Third Lanark was the arrival of the immortal goalkeeper supreme Jimmy Brownlie, at Cathkin Park in 1906.”
Although his only honour with Third Lanark was winning The Glasgow Cup in 1908, his consistency and longevity for the club makes him arguably, with Jimmy Mason, their greatest player, and he was Scotland’sregular goalkeeper for the five years prior to the First World War despite not playing for an Old Firm club. For Third Lanark he scored twice in 481 appearances, the first goal a rebound from a penalty kick he had taken against Motherwell in 1911, the other coming during the 1914-15 season. During the First World War he also had a spell on loan with Greenock Morton, making 22 appearances in their 1918-19 campaign.
As well as playing in 16 of the last 17 internationals before the First World War, he also appeared no less than 14 times for the Scottish League between 1909 and 1919, and in four Victory Internationals once the conflict was over. He made his Scotland international debut in a 5-0 win over Ireland at Ibrox in March 1909, the only game he missed before the War being the April 1911 international with England, when Jimmy Lawrence kept Scotland’s goal. He only conceded 11 goals in all of those sixteen internationals.
In 1921, Brownlie was included in the Scottish FA tour of USA and Canada. He visited 12 cities and played a total of 19 games in those two countries, conceding only 8 goals, all 19 games being won.
In May 1923, Brownlie was appointed player-manager of Dundee United. He continued to play for a further season, but later made one further appearance in an emergency, at the age of 40 in 1926, making 32 appearances in total for The Terrors. His first managerial spell with the club found early success, with the Division Two title in 1925, and again in 1929, but he left the club in April 1931 on the brink of a third promotion. He returned in 1934 with the club at a low ebb, one away from bottom of Division Two, and helped to effect a partial revival before he left again in October 1936. A third and final spell came in 1938-39 in a dual role with Sam Irving; both men were also appointed as directors of the club at this time, with Brownlie retiring from football in May 1939.