Edinburgh born inside right Jimmy Ross, nicknamed “The Little Demon”, is one of the classic footballers of the late Victorian era. In the beginning of his career he played for Edinburgh’s St Bernard’s from 1883, but he came to prominence as part of the great Preston North End team, known as “The Invincibles”, who won the Football League during its first and second seasons, going unbeaten in 1888-89, being the first team to win the double of the League Championship and the FA Cup. Ross scored seven goals in Preston’s record 26-0 win over Hyde in the 1887-88 season. and played in the 1888 FA Cup Final as Preston lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion, but a year later Ross scored the second goal as they convincingly beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-0 at The Kennington Oval to secure the League and Cup double. Ross second top scored with 20 goals behind John Goodall’s 22 as Preston were held to a draw on only 4 occasions. He then second top scored in 1889-90 with 19 goals in 21 League appearances including hat-tricks against West Bromwich Albion and Bolton Wanderers, this time his older brother Nick outscoring him. Preston then finished runners up in the League 3 years in a row, with Ross playing a prominent role.
Having scored 101 goals in 152 appearances for Preston during the Football League era, Liverpool paid a club record fee of £75 for Ross in August 1894, an ambitious signing by manager John McKenna that showed their intent as by now Ross was a legend at Preston. Ross took over as Liverpool captain from Andrew Hannah midway through his debut season and ran the show, pretty much, at Anfield in his first two years at the club. Twelve goals from 27 League matches was not a bad return during a season when the club managed only 51 from 30 games and were relegated straight back to the Second Division. Ross, who wore the captain’s armband, played as a centre-forward as well on the right wing and banged in 23 goals from 25 League games when the club made an immediate return to the top flight as Second Division Champions. But in his third campaign, even though Liverpool did finally establish themselves as a first division club by finishing in a very creditable fifth place, Ross only found the net three times from 21 matches.
In March 1897, after 39 goals in 85 appearances for Liverpool, Ross joined Burnley along with teammate Malcolm McVean and their first match was at Anfield only a week later. Burnley beat Liverpool 2-1 but it didn’t do enough to prevent their relegation. Burnley won the Second Division the following season with Ross scoring an impressive 23 goals in 27 League matches. Ross only played somewhat more than half a season in First Division before joining Manchester City in February 1899 , having scored 32 goals in 63 appearances for The Clarets. City were on their way to the Second Division Championship, Ross scoring 7 goals in 9 appearances in the home straight to seal promotion. Ross scored 22 goals in 70 games for City, but ill-health forced him to retire from the game in the 1901-02 season. Ross contracted an acute skin disease, Erysipelas, succumbed to raging fever and passed away only 36 years of age on 12th June 1902. His coffin was covered with wreaths and floral tributes, one from Preston North End bearing the following appropriate inscription: “In memory of one of the old Invincibles”.
He was the younger brother of Hearts, Preston and Everton player Nick Ross.