Clitheroe born goalkeeper Jimmy Crabtree played football for Stonyhurst College in 1911 and joined Clitheroe Amateurs in 1912 signing as an amateur for First Division Blackburn Rovers in April 1913. He made his Football League debut at Bradford City in February 1914 as understudy to Alfred Robinson, playing 10 games during February, March and April as Blackburn Rovers won the League Championship. He didn’t get a game during 1914-15 as on 5th September 1914, a matter of days after the outbreak of the First World War, Crabtree enlisted as a Private in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Just over a year later, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Crabtree was wounded near Morval during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 and saw further action at Arras and Passchendaele after his recovery. He won a Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” on 26th September 1917. A month later, he was wounded for a second time and wouldn’t serve on the Western Front for the remainder of the War.
After being promoted to Captain, Crabtree was posted briefly to Central Asia before leaving the Army and returning to Ewood Park, still as Robinson’s understudy, where he appeared twice more for Rovers in September 1919. He joined non league Rochdale in June 1920 and played 35 times for ‘Dale during their inaugural Football League season in Division Three (North) including being between the posts for their inaugural League fixture at home to Accrington Stanley in August 1921. In November 1922 he played one game outfield against Hartlepools United as an inside forward, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory. He returned to goalkeeping a week later for the reverse fixture keeping a clean sheet in a 4-0 win. In total he made 60 appearances for ‘Dale before joining Accrington Stanley in February 1924 for whom he played 7 times through to October 1924. He later played for Colne Town in 1929.
He could well be the son of Jimmy Crabtree of Burnley, Aston Villa and England fame.