Sunderland, County Durham born right half Jim Metcalf had played junior football for Sunderland Rovers before the First World War and after the end of the conflict he joined County Durham amateur club Southwick in 1919, where he won several local amateur trophies.
Metcalf was signed by local Second Division club South Shields in April 1920 and made his Football League debut at Nottingham Forest that November. He went on to play seven seasons with the Horsley Hill club, making 197 appearances, scoring twice. During his final two seasons with South Shields he was ever present both seasons.
In June 1927 he joined Second Division rivals Preston North End on a free transfer. During a single season with The Lambs, he played in 16 matches, after losing his place in November having played in the club’s first 13 fixtures. The following summer, Metcalf joined Third Division (North) club Nelson for a transfer fee of £250. He made his debut for the club in the 2-2 draw away at Hartlepools United on 25th August 1928. Metcalf missed only one match of the 1928-29 season, the last game of the campaign against Accrington Stanley. On 26th October 1929, he scored his first and only League goal for Nelson in their 4-1 win over Doncaster Rovers at Seedhill. In two years with Nelson, Metcalf made a total of 71 first-team appearances for The Admirals before retiring from professional football in the summer of 1930.
In July 1931, Metcalf was appointed to the training staff of his former club Preston North End and remained at the club for eight years. Upon leaving Preston he became a trainer at Leicester City, but his stay was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, which meant that competitive football was abandoned for six years in England. He was re-appointed to the position in August 1949.