Jimmy Dunn

Icon of durability at right-back for Leeds

Jimmy Dunn, a swift, hard-tackling right full-back of the old school, is widely considered the finest in his position never to have played for his country. Right-backs for Scotland came and went during the 1950s without Dunn, who monopolised the position for his club, Leeds United, ever being called up.

James Dunn, footballer, milkman and postal worker: born Rutherglen, Lanarkshire 23 October 1922; played for Leeds 1947-59, Darlington 1959-60, Scarborough 1960; married 1951 Audrey Price (three sons, one daughter); died Leeds 7 February 2005.

Jimmy Dunn, a swift, hard-tackling right full-back of the old school, is widely considered the finest in his position never to have played for his country. Right-backs for Scotland came and went during the 1950s without Dunn, who monopolised the position for his club, Leeds United, ever being called up.

It mystified his team-mates, a close-knit group of players living cheek by jowl in the shadow of Elland Road. Few wingers got the better of Dunn, whatever their trickery. They might pass him momentarily, but Dunn's pace made him almost impossible to shake off. He tackled with a gusto that in modern times would incur many a card.

Dunn played in a no-frills game in a workaday team dominated, yet never knocked out of equilibrium, by its one colossal talent, John Charles. Dunn and Charles had a friendship that endured until the latter's death last year. Charles described Dunn as "one of the best full-backs I ever played with . . . at tackling and covering he was unbelievable. Very fit, strong and hard."

During the Second World War Dunn had served in the Royal Marines - although he could not swim and never left British shores - and he joined Leeds United aged 24, in June 1947, spotted by a club scout while he was playing for his local junior team, Rutherglen Glencairn. He made his début, the first of 443 league and cup games, in a 0-0 draw against Cardiff City in November that year. In 1948-49, aged 25, he took possession of the right-back slot for 10 seasons and became an icon of durability.

Dunn had joined an unfashionable club without a major honour to its name perennially lurching between the top two divisions. Leeds, relegated in disarray in 1947, came perilously close to a second demotion the following year. With the help of Dunn and other emerging talents, the rot was stopped and the club came under the firm, if eccentric, management of Major Frank Buckley.

Under Buckley and his successor Raich Carter, who took over in 1953, Dunn proved indispensable. Other solid professionals emerged around him; Grenville Hair at left-back and Eric Kerfoot, a constructive ball-playing right-half who later became captain. The team made it back to the top flight as Division Two runners-up in 1955-56.

The team had its one genius in Charles, supreme either at centre-forward or centre-half, and then, in Dunn's words, "a lot of quite good players who didn't always fire together". As for Dunn himself, Charles detected the one weakness, a limited ability in passing the ball, that may have dissuaded the Scotland selectors.

After the west stand at Elland Road caught fire in September 1956, the revival in Leeds United's fortunes faltered. The structure had been under- insured and forced the sale of Charles to Juventus to fund its replacement. The brief reign in 1959 of Bill Lambton, Carter's successor, was an unhappy one, provoking a players' rebellion in which Kerfoot and Dunn were to the fore. Both players left, Dunn going to Darlington and then Scarborough. In the twilight of his career, he succumbed to a knee injury. His fitness and good fortune had finally run out.

Dunn's first job after retiring from football was as a milkman. His round covered a tough estate in south Leeds and he was reluctant to collect cash from families he thought too poor to pay up. Instead, he took a manual job with the drinks manufacturer Schweppes before joining the Post Office, where he was a sorter until his retirement.

Dunn's dry humour, good nature and generous spirit were widely appreciated. A regular at Leeds home games, he was never heard to criticise another player. Fondly remembered for his innocence, Dunn belonged to an era when earnings were suppressed by the maximum wage; one in which he derived pleasure from Friday nights at the cinema and a shared packet of wine gums.

Andrew Mourant



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