As a tenacious, sharp-tackling, consistently competent full-back with Everton throughout most of the 1950s, Jimmy Tansey took his work extremely seriously.
But that never stopped him having a laugh with the fans. Once, after being dumped on the seat of his pants by the wizardry of an opposing winger – and there was a plethora of beguiling examples in his day, of which the incomparable Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney were the most renowned – the slightly bandy-legged Liverpudlian was subjected to a chorus of colourful ridicule from the massed ranks assembled on Goodison Park's Paddock terrace, now long defunct.
His reaction, rather than revealing unseemly bitterness or retreating into a shell of impotent hurt, was to round on his tormentors with an imaginary machine-gun, pretending to mow them down in waves, all the while wearing a grin as wide as the Mersey. It was a typically spontaneous gesture from an engagingly warm character and it was greeted with uproarious delight, instantly disarming his erstwhile critics. For such moments, as well as for his general efficiency in a frequently toiling team, was Jimmy Tansey loved.
After joining Everton as a teenage wing-half, he was converted into a full-back during his rise through the junior teams and made his senior entrance for the Second Division side as a replacement for the injured Jack Lindsay in a 2-2 draw at Notts County in March 1953. However, it was not until the 1955-56 season, by which time Everton had been promoted, that Tansey laid regular claim to their No 3 shirt, initially at the expense of the Republic of Ireland international Don Donovan.
That season, with the team ensconced in the wrong half of the league table but reaching the last eight of the FA Cup, the local boy impressed with his dependability, the crispness of his challenges, his shrewd positional play and his subtle knack of jockeying his opponents away from the area of immediate danger. Tansey peaked in 1956-57, when he was the only ever-present in manager Ian Buchan's hard-working but rather limited side, which finished 15th in the top tier. Playing at left-back, he struck up an effective understanding with Donovan, now on the right, and the commanding centre-half Tommy Jones.
One of his finest hours came that autumn, when reigning champions and current table-toppers Manchester United were humbled 5-2 on their own Old Trafford turf, with Tansey shackling Johnny Berry, the Busby Babes' quick and feisty little outside-right, thus cutting off a main supply line to the hosts' predatory strike force of Tommy Taylor, Billy Whelan and a rookie named Bobby Charlton.
He retained his place for another full season before yielding it to the younger John Bramwell early in the 1958-59 campaign. Thereafter, losing pace as he strove to recover from a series of niggling injuries, Tansey languished on the fringe of the team until, having entered his thirties, he joined Fourth Division Crewe Alexandra in the summer of 1960.
He had made 142 appearances for Everton, but only managed a handful more for the Gresty Road side before leaving the professional game. Tansey, a gentle and engagingly affable character with a twinkling sense of humour, later worked as a fitter for British Leyland.
James Tansey, footballer: born Liverpool 29 January 1929; played for Everton 1948-60, Crewe Alexandra 1960-61; married (two sons); died Liverpool 7 July 2012.
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