Obituary: Jim Kerray (1935-2021)
James ‘Jim’ Kerray had an almost two-year spell at Leeds Road between 1960 and 1962, playing 60 games and scoring 13 goals. He returned to Huddersfield following his retirement from the game and later coached locally. He recently passed away at the age of 85.
A Late Bloomer
Jim Kerray (Heritage Number 378) was a late bloomer in football terms. It wasn’t until he was 22 years old that he was offered a professional contract by Raith Rovers. He had begun his working life as an apprentice painter and decorator, while also playing for Dunipace Juniors.
It was during his time with Dunipace that he became known for his lightning pace and later in his career gained the nickname, The Flying Scotsman. During his three years at Raith, he scored 28 goals in 76 league games before departing in February 1960 to sign for Dunfermline Athletic, for a fee of £3,600, where he played under future Scotland and Celtic manager Jock Stein.
Kerray set up the first goal during Stein’s opening game, setting up a victory against Celtic. The goal was actually Dunfermline’s fastest ever, coming in at just nine seconds. Ultimately, Kerray had a relatively short spell at East End Park, though he did net four goals in 11 games. Still, Stein was determined to cash in on him.
On to Leeds Road
Thankfully, Kerray had come to the notice of Town and in August 1960, Eddie Boot secured his services for a transfer fee of £6,000.
Kerray made his debut a week later in a 1-1 draw with Luton Town, with the goal coming from Derek Stokes, who was also making his debut. He remained in the side for the first 14 games of the season, playing mostly at inside-right, but occasionally deputising at outside-right.
He spent some short periods out of the team, with his place being taken by Chris Balderstone and even John Bettany. That said, he managed to play 28 league games in his first season at the club. It was during a spell in February, whilst playing centre-forward, that he scored three goals in as many games. He also scored another in March, which would prove to be his final goal of the 1960-61 season.
It was a poor season for Town, who finished 20th in Division Two, and for much of the season were battling relegation—which, if realised, would have been their first ever drop to Division Three. Boot managed to steer Town clear and they finished just two points above Portsmouth, who plummeted into the third tier.
For the following season, 1961-62, Kerray was again a regular in the first team as Town experienced better fortunes on the pitch. Although the team were inconsistent, there wasn’t the worry of relegation hanging over them and they got points on the board early on, winning four of their first six games. Kerray got his first of the season in a 5-1 rout of Plymouth Argyle. He also scored in a 4-2 loss at Plymouth Argyle and bagged the first in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
Up to the Tyne
The latter would go on to have some significance for Kerray. He remained in the side and was ever-present until February 1962, when Newcastle enquired about his signature. As it turned out, he had impressed The Magpies in the game back in September and they wanted to sign him. He left Leeds Road in a swap deal, with Len White heading the other way. After 60 appearances and 13 goals, Kerray’s time as a Town player was over.
He went straight into the team at Newcastle, making his debut against Southampton, where he scored. He went on to play 40 games and scored 10 goals for the club. Despite spending a short period of time at St. James Park, he made his mark by scoring in a Tyne-Wear derby, his goal coming in a 1-1 draw in October 1962, equalising for Newcastle in front of a crowd over 62,000 fans. Interestingly, Brian Clough had put Sunderland in front earlier in the game.
Despite scoring on his debut and against their fierce rivals, Kerray’s time at St. James’ Park was disappointing. He never held down a first team place and the supporters could never really handle the fact that he wasn’t Len White, who had been a fan’s favourite at the club. His old manager, Jock Stein, paid Newcastle £3,000 to take him back to former club Dunfermline in April 1963.
Back to Scotland
Kerray seemed to pick up a habit of scoring on his debut, netting in a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock. He finished the 1963-64 season as the club’s top scorer, with 23 goals. He also played in the Scottish Cup semi-final, in which Dunfermline lost to Rangers. At the end of the season, Stein left to take charge of Hibernian and his successor decided to sell Kerray to St. Johnstone for £6,250. Despite two spells at the club, he only played 68 games, but scored 30 goals in that time.
He then spent two years at St Johnstone, where he scored 18 goals in 47 games before he left for Stirling Albion in 1966. It was while at Stirling Albion that he took part in a summer tour of Athens, Tehran, and Tokyo, playing four games in three countries.
A Little Piece of Folklore
The tour has become folklore as Stirling became the first British professional side to ever tour Japan. Sheffield Wednesday had originally been invited to compete but after a long season capped off by the 1966 FA Cup Final, they pulled out. Football in Japan was in its infancy, and they wanted a top side from Britain to go over and show them how to play. Stirling ended up flying 20,000 miles in 17 days.
They were guaranteed at least £10-12,000 for playing their part in the tour and Kerray was part of the travelling side that first played against A.E.K. Athens in front of 10,000 and ended in a 2-0 loss. They then flew to Tehran to play a Teheran Select XI, winning 1-0.
After that, it was on to Japan, where they ended up playing against the Japan national side in a match at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. That same stadium had hosted the 1964 Olympic Games just two years before. That particular game was played in front of a crowd of 65,000 and was broadcast live on television. Stirling won the game 3-1, with Kerray bagging a brace.
He also played in the second game in Japan at the Mozawaka Stadium, in front of 40,000 people. The team walked onto the pitch on a red carpet and were introduced to the Emperor’s son, Prince Tekamusa. Stirling won the game 4-2.
ICI, Retirement, and Semi-Professional Football
After a short spell at Falkirk, where he played 15 games and scored a single goal, Kerray left professional football. Having departed Huddersfield way back in 1962, he returned to the town in 1969, working at ICI Paints Division in the transport department. He also played semi-professional football for Buxton Town and Ossett Town (alongside Len White, ironically) before he retired and went into coaching around the Yorkshire area. He coached at Ossett and then Lower Hopton and Brackenhall United. Kerray remained in Huddersfield and at ICI until his retirement in the early 1990s.
At some point, he returned to his native Scotland in retirement and lived in Stirlingshire.
James ‘Jim’ Kerray passed away on November 6th, 2021, at the age of 85. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Jim’s family, his wife Sandra, sons Mark and David and daughter Maureen at this time.