Jimmy Thorpe

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Jimmy Thorpe
Personal information
Full name James Horatio Thorpe[1]
Date of birth (1913-09-16)16 September 1913
Place of birth Jarrow, England
Date of death 5 February 1936(1936-02-05) (aged 22)
Place of death Sunderland, England
Height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Playing position Goalkeeper
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1930–1936 Sunderland 123 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

James Horatio "Jimmy" Thorpe (16 September 1913 – 9 February 1936) was an English footballer born in Jarrow. He played 139 games as a goalkeeper for Sunderland Association Football Club. He signed when he was 17 after attending Jarrow Central School. He had a promising career, becoming starter for the club from the 1932/33 season. His life and career were cut short on 1 February 1936 when he was kicked in the head and chest after he had picked up the ball following a backpass in a game against Chelsea at Roker Park. He continued to take part until the match finished, but died in hospital 4 days later from diabetes mellitus and heart failure 'accelerated by the rough usage of the opposing team' [2]

This tragic end to Thorpe's career led to a change in the rules, where players were no longer allowed to raise their foot to a goalkeeper when he had control of the ball in his arms.[3] Though Thorpe may be little known, even in the North East, goalkeepers around the world doubtlessly owe a debt to him. The changed rules now says that players can't kick the ball out of the goalkeeper's hands. Sunderland went on to win the Championship that same year, and his medal was presented to his widow.[4] During the 75th Anniversary of the game between Sunderland and Chelsea both goalkeepers wore black armbands as a mark of respects for Jimmy's efforts.


  1. ^ Joyce, Michael (2004). Football League Players' Records 1888 to 1939. Nottingham: SoccerData. p. 259. ISBN 1-899468-67-6. 
  2. ^ "Goalkeeper's Death". The Times. London. 14 February 1936. 
  3. ^ "On the run with dogs and a long-dead goalkeeper - Telegraph". London. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. 
  4. ^ A Love Supreme - The Independent Sunderland Football Club Fanzine

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