Fulham born inside left Jackie Burns played for junior club Crypto from 1926 and joined Third Division (South) Queen’s Park Rangers as an amateur in 1927, making his Football League debut against Southend United in January 1928, scoring in a 3-2 victory. He soon established himself as a regular in the Rangers’ line up, finishing as second top scorer behind George Goddard with 13 goals in 1928-29.
Burns made his first appearances for the touring side Middlesex Wanderers in 1929, appearing in matches against Stade Français Paris and a Paris XI. He returned to Paris in 1931 to take part in matches against Racing and Athletic de Paris. Burns appeared on two tours of the Netherlands with Wanderers in 1932, beating Vitesse Arnhem and PSV Eindhoven along the way. He also represented The Corinthians.
His debut for England Amateurs came in February 1930 as England won 2-1 against Wales at Aberystwyth, and he won a total of 16 amateur caps for England through to 1935, scoring 3 times and captaining his country on 6 occasions.
After 34 goals in 125 appearances for Rangers, he joined fellow Division Three (South) side and West London rivals Brentford in the 1931 close season at the beginning of the most successful period of the club’s history, which began with Harry Curtis’ team winning the Division Three (South) title in the 1932-33 season. By now Burns was playing at left half and played 37 times in that campaign. The Second Division Championship and the London Senior Cup followed in the 1934-35 season, Burns scoring 5 goals in 28 League matches during that campaign, sending the Brentford into the top flight for the first time in the club’s history. However Burns only made 9 First Division appearances, scoring in a 2-1 win over Arsenal in November 1935, and left the club in December 1935, having made 153 appearances and scored 16 goals during his four years with The Bees.
He joined Athenian League side Leyton, spending two years with the club and reaching the final of the 1937 FA Amateur Cup. Burns spent the 1937-38 season with Athenian League side Sutton United, winning the Surrey Charity Shield. He also appeared for Isthmian League side London Caledonians. He holds the record for Football League appearances by an amateur player with 262 appearances, during which he scored 43 goals.