Burnley, Lancashire born left half Jimmy Crabtree began his career at Burnley Royal Swifts in 1887, and joined hometown Football League club Burnley in 1889, making his Football League debut that September against Accrington, scoring once in 4 appearances that season but he left Turf Moor in 1890 and played in non league football for Rossendale and Heywood Central over the next two years before returning to Burnley for the 1892-93 season, scoring 12 times in 74 further appearances for The Clarets. His performances gained him his first England cap when he played in a 2-2 draw against Ireland at Cliftonville Gardens, Belfast in March 1894, winning 2 further caps against Ireland and Scotland in the Spring of 1895 and he also attracted the attention of FA Cup holders, Aston Villa, who signed him for £200 in May 1895.
At Villa he played alongside Howard Spencer at left half, and went on to share the captaincy of the club with him. During seven seasons at Villa Park he won League Championship medals with Villa in 1897, 1899 and 1900, he also lifted the FA Cup in as a part of the Aston Villa team that completed the Double in 1897 when they beat Everton 3-2 in the FA Cup Final at The Crystal Palace.
Described at the time as “One of England’s greatest players. Shone in any position. Great as a half-back, but greater, possibly, as a back, kicking cleanly and with rare precision. A keen, skilful tackler, clever at close quarters and equally reliable in the open; cool, resourceful, and brainy. Excelled in the finer points of the game, and one of the most versatile players England has boasted. For many seasons unrivalled in his position”, he was capped 11 further times by England whilst at Villa through to March 1902 and also played 4 matches in the FA Tour of Austria and Germany in November 1899, as well as appearing 9 times for The Football League.
After 7 goals in 202 appearances for Villa, Crabtree joined Plymouth Argyle in January 1904 and made four appearances in the Southern League before injury forced him to retire. He then coached at several non league clubs and later became a pub licensee in Birmingham. He died suddenly at the age of 36 in March 1908.