Coylton, Ayrshire born left half James ‘Jimmy’ Hay is considered among the finest players to ever pull on the Hoops of Celtic. He combined immense strength with subtle skill as a stalwart of Willie Maley’s legendary side which won six Scottish League Championships in a row between 1905 and 1910. He was also in the teams that won The Scottish Cup in 1904, 1907, 1907 and 1911.
Hay played junior football with Woodside Annbank in 1898 and joined Annbank in 1900, subsequently joining Ayr in 1901. He signed for Celtic from Ayr in March 1903 and he made his senior competitive debut in a 2-1 home League victory over Partick Thistle on August 15th that year. His play was characterised by a vigorous energy and his driving runs and rapid passes would quickly convert defence into attack. Strong in the tackle and comfortable on the ball, Hay was among the most accomplished and respected players of his generation.
His playing abilities were combined with obvious leadership qualities which saw him captain Celtic between 1906 and 1911. In 1910 he was also made captain of Scotland and led the team out at Goodison Park in 1911 for the clash with England. He was capped 11 times for his country between March 1905 when he made his international debut against Ireland at Celtic Park, Glasgow, and his final cap against England at Hampden Park in April 1914, he was nominated as Scotland captain on 3 occasions. He also played 6 times for The Scottish League between 1909 and 1911.
He left Celtic Park in July 1911 after a benefit game when the Celtic board refused to meet his demands for an improved contract. His departure to Newcastle United came after 255 appearances and 17 goals for The Bhoys. He made his Football League debut at Bolton Wanderers that September and in his debut season they finished third in the League Championship. He played four seasons at St James’ Park until the advent of the First World War forced the suspension of peacetime football in May 1915, scoring 8 goals in 149 appearances for The Toon. He served as a gunner in The Royal Field Artillery during the First World War. He returned to Scotland with Ayr United in 1915 and joined Heart of Midlothian in the spring of 1918 playing twice for the Jambos, before joining Clydebank later the same summer.
He finished his playing career with Ayr United joining them in 1919 and later Hay was appointed manager of Clydebank in April 1922 and then had a spell in management at Ayr United where he was appointed in June 1924. The club were relegated from the First Division in his first season as manager. He left the club in January 1926 after accusing Ayr United director Tom Steen of trying to bribe a referee. Hay was banned indefinitely by the Scottish Football Association after he refused to apologise, but the suspension was lifted in November 1927.