Barnsley born outside left Jimmy Ruffell moved to London as a boy and started playing junior football towards the end of the First World War first with Fulwell and then Chadwell Heath United in 1917. He also played with Manor Park Albion in 1918 and Wall End United, a club based in East Ham in 1919. He was signed by West Ham United in March 1920, where he would become one of their outstanding players and is rated as probably the finest winger to have worn West Ham’s claret and blue. He made his Football League debut against Bury in December 1921 and by March 1922 was a fixture in the first team.
He played for West Ham in the 1923 FA Cup Final, the so called White Horse Final, when they lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers. In the same season he played 33 League games as West Ham won promotion to the First Division finishing Second Division runners up. Ruffell later commented: “West Ham were a good passing team. Most of the time you had an idea where men were or men would make themselves ready to get the ball from another player. I think we were one of the few clubs to really practice that.”
He was first capped by England in April 1926 when he played against Scotland at Old Trafford and won 5 more caps through to November 1929, also representing The Football League on 3 occasions. He made 548 appearances over 16 seasons for The Hammers, a record that wasn’t beaten until Bobby Moore surpassed it in 1973. He scored a total of 166 goals, placing him above many of West Ham’s finest strikers in the club’s records, and was the club’s top scorer for the 1927-28 and 1934-35 seasons with 20 goals in each season. Despite this, he didn’t score a single goal during the 1921-22, 1932-33 and 1936-37 seasons. The Hammers released him on a free transfer in April 1938 before Aldershot signed him in June. He retired the following season because of injury, having played just twice, scoring once for The Shots.
His younger brother Bill Ruffell was on the books at West Ham United in 1925-26 and later played 12 matches for Nelson in the Third Division (North) in their 1927-28 campaign, scoring twice.