Looking back: Jimmy Fell

Date of birth: 4.1.36, Born: Cleethorpes, Height: 5ft 10in, Position: Left winger

City apps: League: 64, goals: 10, FA & League Cups: 6, Total: 70, goals: 10

James Irving Fell attended Clee Grammar School for Boys before becoming a chemist at Courtaulds and playing for local side Waltham after doing his National Service. His professional footballing career started with Grimsby Town, then in Division Two, scoring on his debut for them in February 1957. He hit the headlines in the opening game of the 1958/59 season against Liverpool at Anfield in front of a crowd of over 47,000. In the days before substitutes were allowed Grimsby’s goalkeeper Clarrie Williams had to leave the field through injury and Fell replaced him between the sticks. He performed so heroically in a 3–3 draw that The Daily Mirror presented him with an ‘Andy Capp’ Performance of the Week award.

Once described as an “up and coming Stanley Matthews” by commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme Fell was transferred to Everton in March 1961 for a then club-record fee of £20,000 after making a total of 174 appearances for Grimsby and scoring 35 goals.

Described as a classy and tricky winger with an eye for a goal, he spent less than a year with Everton, appearing 28 times in the First Division and scoring 5 goals before joining Newcastle United, relegated to Division Two at the end of the previous season, the Magpies paying £3,000 plus centre half George Heslop for him.

Fell went on to make a total of 52 appearances for Newcastle, scoring 17 goals, and finishing as leading scorer in the 1962/63 season. Despite this, he was rather surprisingly sold to Walsall for £5,000 in July 1963, dropping down to the Third Division for the first time since leaving Grimsby.

After 21 league games and 4 goals for Walsall Fell dropped further down the divisions in January 1964 when he was signed for City by Bill Anderson during his last season in full charge of playing matters at Sincil Bank. Taking the place of Jimmy Campbell on the left wing Fell made his debut in a 2–1 victory at Hartlepools and my first sight of him came in a 4-0 win over Halifax Town at the beginning of February. He soon became one of my heroes, although this was partly due to him being a winger – he and Roger Holmes on the right being the two players seen at close quarters running up and down in front of me just the other side of the wall at the foot of the Sincil Bank terracing.

Unfortunately, after a mid-table finish in the 1963/64 season which produced a feeling of optimism for the following campaign the form of too many players deteriorated, and things began to fall apart, leading first to the directors picking the team and then the disastrous appointment of Con Moulson to take charge of team affairs. Throughout all this Fell was one of the few players to keep his place for most of the 1964/65 season, missing two games through injury early on and appearing in five of the eight defeats which marked the total reign of Con Moulson. Restored to the side by newly-appointed player-coach Roy Chapman he was in the team which achieved a first win in 16 games when Darlington were beaten 2-0 and the following caption to the photo from the game (main pic, top) just about sums up his and City’s season: ‘Lincoln City’s left winger Jimmy Fell (extreme right) beats the entire Darlington defence with a late centre across the face of goal. But neither Ken Fencott (left) nor Roy Chapman (second from left) could get through to apply the final touch.’

In the last game of the season Fell starred in a 4-3 win over Newport County which prevented a last-place finish for City, scoring twice as a stand-in centre forward after a first half injury suffered by Bud Houghton.

However, with Chapman in charge Fell lost his place to John Hawksby for the start of the following season, returning to the side after Hawksby was dropped in mid-September 1965. His first game saw a 4-1 win over Darlington, but following a defeat at Port Vale and a home draw with Crewe he was out of the side permanently and soon asked for a transfer. This did not come until the following January, and saw his drop down the leagues continue as he joined Boston United. There he found some success helping the Pilgrims to two West Midlands League titles and into the newly-formed Northern Premier League. He then had a year with Skegness Town in 1969 before finishing as he started with local football in the Grimsby area playing for Ross Group FC.

A keen angler and cricketer, Jimmy Fell then worked at Grimsby Leisure Centre for 22 years until retirement and died at his home in Grimsby at the age of 75 in 2011. He played in a total of 327 Football League games scoring 69 goals.

Malcolm Johnson