When English third division club Aston Villa made “cricketer” Jim Cumbes the third most expensive goalkeeper in the World

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Jimmy Cumbes was a goalkeeper in English football during the 60’s and 70’s and also played professional in the NASL for Portland Timbers. One special talent and athlete that combined top level cricket and football during his career.

He progressed from the non-league schene and in to EFL action in the early 60’s as he first joined Tranmere Rovers and later moved to West Bromwich, and as he said himself, made it to the top.

To be able to combine the two sports are something not seen today as clubs would probably not allow players to go away and perform in another sport. It was not only Jimmy Cumbes, but also good top flight footballers such as Chris Balderston and Graham Cross are other examples.

JC tells his story about his time in the game and why he decided to make the switch from the top flight with West Bromwich and join neighbour Aston Villa, at the time a club as low as the third level today kown as League One.

He had fallen out with new boss Don Howe and was eager to get on to a new chance somewhere else but to drop down two divisions was not what he had hoped for. He joined West Bromwich in 1969 for a fee of £35.000 and at the time only Alex Stepney (Man Utd) and Gordon Banks (Stoke) had been sold for a higher fee among goalkeepers.

To join Aston Villa was probably not a bad idea, and after making the decision he never regretted anything and loved every minute of his time at Villa Park. League Cup winner in 1975, two promotions a few years earlier made it a very special period of his career.

After leaving Aston Villa in 1976, he joined NASL club Portland Timbers and spent a season there beofre moving home and moving on to lower tier football with Runcorn, Southport and Worcester.

For football fans Jimmy Cumbes was a goalkeeper of merit, and his life in cricket was less known. He is to date and will probably for always be the only person to have played in a final at Lords and Wembley.

Since retirement from football in the early 80’s he has been involved in the game of cricket ever since. First as a marketing capacity and later being the chief executive at Lancashire.

Jimmy Cumbes is one of those unique men that in his time just carried on with his split interest of footbal and cricket and had little or no idea of how special he was.

FOCUS ON

  • Full Name: James Cumbes
  • Date of Birth: 04.05.1944
  • Birthplace: Manchester
  • Nation: England
  • Caps: 0
  • Goals: 0
  • Previous Club: West Bromwich Albion
  • Transfer Fee: £35.000
  • Aston Villa
    • Period: 1971-1975
    • League Appearances: 157
    • League Goals: 0
  • Facts & Stats
  • Pictures

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