Blackrod, Bolton, Lancashire born inside right Jimmy “Nat” Cunliffe initially played junior football for Haslingden before joining Adlington in 1929 from where he signed for First Division Everton in May 1930, making his Football League debut at Aston Villa in March 1933, scoring Everton’s goal in a 2-1 defeat. It was said of him in 1934 that he “in no small way has helped in the revival of the scoring powers of Dixie Dean”. Between 1933 and 1939 he made 187 appearances scoring 76 goals for The Toffees including 23 goals in 1935-36 which included two 4 goal sprees in wins over Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion in a season when he outscored even the legendary “Dixie” Dean and was Everton’s leading goalscorer. He also scored a hat-trick in a win over Derby County on Christmas Day 1936.
Having first been picked in an England squad in September 1934, Cunliffe also finally earned one cap for the England in May 1936 after four squad inclusions as a non playing reserve when he played in a 3-2 defeat to Belgium in Brussels. He was subsequently again a non playing reserve in November 1936 for England’s
However he lost his regular place in the Everton team in August 1938 and only played 7 matches as they won the 1938-39 League Championship, making his final appearance for The Toffees in April 1939. He lost much of his career to the Second World War, during which time he played wartime league football for Everton, Bolton Wanderers and Rochdale, and after the War he stayed at Everton until September 1946 but didn’t appear for their first team before joining Third Division (North) club Rochdale, for whom he made 2 appearances in September 1946 before retirement.
Cunliffe was the cousin of 1930’s Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and England winger Arthur Cunliffe.