Govan, Glasgow born inside forward Jimmy Speirs began his football career in junior football with Annandale in 1903 and played for Maryhill in 1904. Speirs’ first recorded scoring appearance was on 29th April 1905, when his two goals helped Maryhill beat Parkhead 2-0. Speirs scored again in a 3-3 draw against Ashfield in the Glasgow Junior Cup final, and scored the only goal of the replay to help Maryhill win the competition. Maryhill also won the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup and the league title before joining Glasgow Rangers in the summer of 1905. His Scottish League debut in the came on 25th September 1905 at Ibrox, when Rangers crashed to a 5-0 defeat by Hearts. In the following League match, on 7th October, Spiers scored his first goal for Rangers in a 4-1 win at Port Glasgow. In his first season, Speirs scored a hat-trick in a 7-1 Scottish Cup first round victory over Second Division Arthurlie, and won the Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup, during which he scored twice in both the semi-final and final, however he struggled to establish himself in their first eleven with regularity. While at Rangers Speirs won a representative cap when he played and scored for Glasgow during an inter-city fixture in a 2-2 draw with Sheffield in March 1908. The same month he also won his only cap for Scotland, in a 2-1 win over Wales at Dens Park, Dundee.
Spiers joined Clyde in the summer of 1908 after 9 goals in 21 League and Cup appearances for Rangers. He was part of the Clyde team that posted the club’s best ever season, with The Bully Wee finishing third in the Scottish League, only 3 points behind Scottish Champions Rangers, also losing in a replay to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi final, with Speirs netting 10 goals in 20 appearances.
In the summer of 1909 Speirs signed for First Division Bradford City and made his Football League debut on the opening day of the 1909-10 season, as City lost 1-0 to Manchester United. His first goal came three months later, in a 3-1 victory over Sunderland, during the middle of a ten-game undefeated spell. Speirs was an ever present during his first season, scoring 7 times, as City finished seventh. It was the following season when Speirs wrote his name in the club’s record books. He played 25 League games, scoring seven goals, to help City to fifth place, a position which the club has not yet bettered.
The club reached the FA Cup Final in the same season, with Speirs playing in all but one of the games along the way, scoring in a 2-1 second round victory over Norwich City. Speirs, along with Frank Thompson and George Robinson, was censured by the Football Association following a scramble for the match ball at the end of the semi-final victory against Blackburn Rovers.
Speirs was by now club captain and in the days up to the Final he wrote to his opposite number, Newcastle United captain Colin Veitch. The contents of his letter are not known, but in his reply, Veitch said Speirs had “expressed in sound terms the true spirit of comradeship, and the proper sentiments one would expect to see associated with the sportsman, and the sport”. Speirs led out a team which contained eight Scots for the Final at the Crystal Palace on 22nd April 1911 against Newcastle United. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, in what was described as a “decidedly dull and uneventful game”. The replay was played four days later at Old Trafford, with City making one change to the team, bringing in Bob Torrance for fellow Scottish defender Willie Gildea. After 15 minutes, Speirs scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game to win the Cup. Robinson shot at goal, but the wind caught the ball, which was headed on by Frank Thompson. Speirs himself headed the ball at goal, and as Newcastle’s goalkeeper Jimmy Lawrence was distracted by City striker Frank O’Rourke, the ball rolled into the net. Speirs lifted the newly-cast trophy, which had been made by the famous Bradford jewellers Fattorini & Sons, and of which Bradford City became the first winners.
Speirs scored his only hat-trick for Bradford City during a 5-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on 30th March 1912 but despite scoring regularly found opportunities increasingly limited, although he had played in most of Bradford’s fixtures in the 1912-13 season to the point of his transfer to Leeds City for £1,400 in December 1912 after 33 goals in 96 appearances for The Bantams, becoming one of manager Herbert Chapman’s first signings. Speirs’ debut came on 28th December in a 3-2 defeat to Fulham, and although his first goal did not come until his fifth game against Bradford Park Avenue, Speirs finished second highest scorer with 10 goals, behind Billy McLeod. Their goals helped Leeds finish in sixth position, 10 points off the promotion places.
The following season, Leeds came closer to promotion, but despite Speirs, as captain, scoring 12 goals and McLeod netting 27, they came fourth, two points behind Park Avenue in the second promotion spot. Despite the outbreak of the First World War in June 1914, League football continued, but Leeds lost their first four games of the season and were unable to recover, finishing a lowly 15th. Speirs scored the only goal of the West Riding Cup final against Hull City on 11 November 1914 to give what was Leeds City’s only ever trophy before the club was expelled from the league in 1919 and subsequently dissolved. League football was suspended at the end of the season, and the last game of Speirs’ career was a 2–0 defeat to Barnsley on 24 April 1915. He played 78 games for Leeds, scoring 31 goals.
At the end of the 1914-15 season, Speirs returned to his native Glasgow and enlisted in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders on 17th May 1915. Conscription was a year away, from which Speirs would have been exempt because he was married with two young children. Private S/18170 Speirs was posted to the regiment’s headquarters in Inverness where he joined the 3rd Battalion, a reserve battalion, for training. He was appointed to the position of Lance Corporal while on training, and after the British troops suffered heavy casualties, Speirs was posted overseas on 29th May 1916. The following month, he was promoted to the position of Corporal. Later the same year, he wounded his elbow, from either a gunshot or shrapnel injury.
In April 1917, Speirs took part in the Second Battle of Arras, for which he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in May 1917, before he was promoted to Sergeant in June. The following month, he returned home to Scotland on leave, but he soon returned to France and was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele on or about 20 August 1917, aged 31. He is buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, near Ypres in Belgium.