Heeley, Sheffield born centre half Jimmy Harrop played junior football for Meersbrook Albion in 1898, Heeley St. Peter’s in 1899, Kent Road Mission in 1900 and Ranmoor Wesleyans from 1901 before spending 1903-04 as an amateur on the books of Sheffield Wednesday without playing for their first eleven, thereafter joining Denaby United in 1905. Initially a forward, he was moved to centre half, and he joined Midland League Rotherham Town in 1907, where he was appointed captain, from where Liverpool signed him for £250 in January 1908, Harrop making his Football League debut the same month against Bolton Wanderers.
“Heads Up” Harrop as he was known in Liverpool was tagged as club legend Alex Raisbeck’s successor in the middle of the Liverpool defence. The club programme liked the look of him when he was still a relative newcomer to the Liverpool ranks: “Our early impressions of Harrop have been distinctly pleasing, for he uses his head to advantage in a double sense, and seems imbued with a determination to play the game intelligently and fairly.” The Sunday Chronicle gave its approval on 16 January 1910: “The Liverpool club have the gift of discovering men who have the genius to play centre half-back. Who would ever have thought that the legitimate successor to Alec Raisbeck could be found at the first attempt? James Harrop has followed the great Scot with such felicitous feet and such harmonious heading that he is unquestionably building a lasting reputation. Raisbeck was fresh in complexion, with lint locks, and sturdy build. Harrop is sallow as a son of Romany, has jet-black hair, and is slim of both body and mind.”
Harrop was a cool, methodical player, who quickly established himself at the heart of the club’s defence for the next four years. Liverpool were in the bottom half of the First Division table three out of the four seasons Harrop was a regular in the side, but managed to finish second behind Aston Villa in the 1909-10 season when his “raven locks” had replaced legend Raisbeck’s “golden crown”.
Harrop and goalkeeper Sam Hardy left Liverpool for Aston Villa in the summer of 1912, Harrop having scored 4 goals in 139 appearances. They had formed a sound friendship and were called “The Liverpool twins”. Villa had finished sixth in the First Division, while Liverpool had been close to relegation. The duo won the FA Cup in their debut season at Villa, beating League Champions Sunderland 1-0 in the Final. Villa finished runners-up in the League in Harrop’s first two seasons and Harrop was called up to the England squads for the games against Wales in March 1913 and again a year later in March 1914, however on both occasions he was a non playing reserve. His career was then interrupted during the First World War, during which he guested for Sheffield Wednesday.
After the War he returned to Aston Villa and he was unlucky to miss their 1920 FA Cup Final win over Huddersfield Town due to an injury picked up a few weeks before the Final which ruled him out for the rest of the season. He stayed at Villa Park until March 1921 scoring four goals in 171 appearances before signing for Sheffield United. However he only made 14 appearances for The Blades before joining non league Burton All Saints in 1922, playing for Buxton in 1923.