Greenock, Renfrewshire born right back Jimmy Nelson grew up in Northern Ireland and starting his football career there with junior sides St Paul’s, Belfast in 1918 and Glenavon in 1919, before joining Crusaders in 1920. Nelson was signed by First Division Cardiff City in August 1921 and stayed with The Bluebirds for nine seasons, having made his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion in October 1921. During this time he was an ever present as Cardiff finished runners up in the League Championship in 1924 and he was part of Cardiff’s first FA Cup Final team when they got to the 1925 Final, only to be beaten by Sheffield United at Wembley. He also became the first Cardiff player to be sent off in a League match, against Manchester City in August 1925, and was also a member of the talented side which won the FA Cup in 1927 against Arsenal, still the only time that the FA Cup has left England.
Nelson was first capped for Scotland when he played in a 3-1 victory over Wales at Tynecastle in February 1925, playing the same month against Ireland. But his third cap is by far the most famous. Recalled three years later in March 1928, he was part of the “Wembley Wizards” team that beat England 5-1 at Wembley in March 1928. Ivan Sharpe, the ex-player and writer, commented on the victory: “England were not merely beaten. They were bewildered, run to a standstill, made to appear utterly inferior by a team whose play was as cultured and beautiful as I ever expect to see.” His fourth and final cap came against France in a 2-0 victory in a tour match in May 1930.
Cardiff were relegated in 1929, and after a season in the Second Division Nelson was signed by Newcastle United for £7,000 in July 1930 after 3 goals in 271 appearances for The Bluebirds. He was a regular for four seasons at St James’ Park and was the captain of The Magpies’ team that won the 1932 FA Cup Final against Arsenal, but when the club were relegated from the First Division in 1934, Nelson was amongst those to pay the price and he played only 3 more times for Newcastle on top of his previous 157 appearances before joining Southend United in June 1935. He stayed 4 more seasons with The Shrimpers but for the latter two seasons was a fringe player, making 81 appearances before joining non league Ecko Sports in 1939.
His son Tony became an amateur international footballer for Wales then later turned professional playing with Newport County and Bournemouth.