Manchester born centre forward Jimmy Cookson played junior football in Manchester for Ancoats Lads Club in 1919, South Salford Lads Club in 1920 and Clayton in 1921, and then turned professional with home town First Division club Manchester City in 1923 but never played a first team match for them, signing for Third Division (North) club Chesterfield in April 1925 and making his Football League debut that September against Rochdale. He was the leading goalscorer in the Third Division (North) for the 1925-26 season with 44 goals in only 34 games and all but repeated the feat the next season with 41 goals in 40 League appearances including 4 goals on 3 occasions and 6 other hat-tricks.
After 89 goals in only 79 games, not surprisingly West Bromwich Albion came in for him in August 1927 waving a cheque for £2,500. He continued banging in the goals at almost a goal a game for The Baggies, which included a double hat-trick against Blackpool in 1927, but by 1931 his place was no longer assured and indeed he was not selected for their 1931 FA Cup Final triumph. He joined Plymouth Argyle in 1933 after a prolific 110 goals in 131 games, and continued to maintain a very high scoring ratio for The Pilgrims with 38 goals in 48 games in Devon, before joining Swindon Town in 1936. He ended his career in 1938 with 53 games for The Robins, scoring another 33 goals for an impressive career total of 270 goals.
His brother Sam played for Manchester City, Bradford Park Avenue and Barnsley.