Stoke on Trent born wing half Jimmy McLean joined Eastville Rovers, the immediate forerunner of Bristol Rovers, in 1896 before joining Worcester City a year later. From there he joined Second Division Walsall, making his Football League debut at Middlesbrough in November 1899, scoring 7 goals in 69 appearances over two seasons, before Walsall lost their League status in 1901. Not surprisingly he was soon picked up in the 1901 close season by near neighbours West Bromwich Albion, recently relegated from the First Division, and he helped The Baggies win the Second Division Championship in 1901-02, missing only 2 games in the campaign. He then had his first season in the top flight with Albion, before joining Second Division Preston North End in the 1903 close season after 10 goals in 60 appearances.
At Preston, similarly a leading club in 1890’s football temporarily fallen on harder times, he achieved the same as at West Bromwich, winning the Second Division Championship in his first season, 1903-04, when he missed only one game in the campaign. He continued as a mainstay of the Preston line-up for 4 further seasons in the First Division, but lost his place in 1908. He remained a fringe player at Deepdale, eventually leaving in 1911 after 4 goals in 198 appearances. It seems he then emigrated to Australia but died in 1914 in uncertain circumstances.