Left half Jimmy McMullan was born in Denny, Stirlingshire and began his football career with junior side Denny Hibernian in 1911 before graduating to the Scottish League with Third Lanark the next year. Initially considered an inside left, by the time he joined Thirds Glasgow rivals Partick Thistle in 1913 he played predominantly as a left half. He stayed eight seasons with Thistle but missed out on participating in their Scottish Cup winning side of 1921 through injury. In April 1919 he represented The Scottish League for the first time as they beat The Football League 3-2 at Ibrox, and in total he won 4 Scottish League caps through to March 1921. In February 1920 he won the first of his sixteen caps for Scotland when he played against Wales in a 1-1 draw at Ninian Park in the 1920 British Home Championship. McMullan was an ever present in the 1921 British Home Championship which was won by Scotland. It’s fair to say that McMullan is widely considered to have been the greatest Scottish half-back of his day.
In the close season of 1921 McMullan became embroiled in controversy. Partick turned down a £5,000 offer from Newcastle United for his signature and the player, but determined to play in English football, he signed for non-league Maidstone United as player-manager. He returned to the Glasgow club in the summer of 1923. McMullan helped Scotland to victory in the 1925 British Home Championship and was part of the Scotland team which defeated England 2-0 at Hampden Park (Hughie Gallacher scored both goals) in April 1925. In February 1926 he eventually earned his long-desired move to the Football League aged 30, when First Division Manchester City signed him for £4,700.
McMullan made his Football League debut for Manchester City in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on 27th February 1926. Tommy Browell scored the goal for City. Despite containing a number of England players such as Frank Roberts, Billy Austin, Sam Cowan and Tommy Johnson, City finished in twenty-first place in the First Division that season and were relegated into the Second Division. McMullan also played in the 1926 FA Cup Final defeat to Bolton Wanderers the same season. McMullan was part of the Scotland which won the 1926 British Home Championship appearing in the 1=0 victory against England at Old Trafford (Alex Jackson scored the goal for Scotland) and in the 3-0 victory against Wales at Ninian Park (John Duncan, Adam McLean and William Clunas were the scorers).
McMullan scored his first goal for Manchester City in a 3-4 defeat to Southampton in the 1926-27 football season. City came third in the Second Division and were unable to earn promotion. In the 1927 British Home Championship McMullan featured twice for Scotland in a 3-0 victory against Wales (Alex Jackson scored twice and Hughie Gallacher once) and a 2-1 defeat to England at Hampden Park (Dixie Dean scored twice for England and Alan Morton scored Scotland’s goal). Despite this defeat, Scotland won the Championship that season.
In the 1927-28 football season McMullan helped City to the Second Division Championship scoring 4 goals in 38 appearances. The team had been strengthened by the acquisition of both Eric Brook and Fred Tilson from Barnsley. In the 1928 British Home Championship McMullan reached arguably the pinnacle of his career when he captained Scotland as they defeated England 5-1 at Wembley Stadium with a hat-trick from Alex Jackson and a brace from Alex James. As a result of the resounding victory, the Scotland team were dubbed the “Wembley Wizards”. Despite this victory Wales won the Championship that season. McMullan captained Scotland to victory the following season in the 1929 British Home Championship.
McMullan reached an FA Cup final with City again in 1933 but the team were defeated by Everton 3-0, playing his last League game for City in May 1933. While many of his team mates would be part of the City team which won the FA Cup the following year, after 242 League and Cup appearances for City, during which he scored 12 goals, McMullan joined Oldham Athletic as a player-manager later in May 1933. Nonetheless McMullan is regarded as one of Manchester City’s greatest ever players.
After a brief spell as manager of at Oldham Athletic from May 1933 to May 1934, he was appointed manager of Aston Villa in June 1934. Before his appointment the team was selected by a Committee so in effect he can be considered the club’s first ever modern “manager”. However, the move proved disastrous, resulting in Villa’s first ever relegation in 1935-36 after 61 years in the top flight and he was dismissed in October 1936. He later managed Notts County from November 1936 to December 1937, when he left to become manager of Sheffield Wednesday, staying as their manager until April 1942.