It was with deep regret that we learned that Jim Fryatt, had passed away at the age of 79 on 5th June 2020, in Las Vegas.
Jim was an instantly recognisable figure with his balding pate, mutton chop sideburns and drooping moustache. He could easily have walked in from the pages of novel by Dickens or off the set of a spaghetti western by Sergio Leone. Indeed, he was given the nickname ‘Pancho’ by many at his various clubs although, curiously, it was never much in evidence at Ewood. In reality, Jim was a much sought after centre-forward in the sixties who plied his trade mainly in the lower divisions during a nomadic career.
Although he possessed a fierce shot in either foot, it was in the air that the heavily built striker was at his most dangerous. Despite his burly stature, Jim had the ability to seemingly hang in the air until just the right moment to meet the ball with tremendous force. He was undoubtedly one of the best headers of a football to have graced the game.
He began his career in youth football in the Southampton area before joining Charlton Athletic as a part-timer in October 1957, whilst serving his apprenticeship as a trainee draughtsman. In September 1958 he signed a full-time contract at Charlton and embarked upon a football career that would see him score 189 goals in 499 League appearances.
Jim joined Southend United, in June 1960, but it was a move to Bradford Park Avenue, in June 1963, that enabled him to make his mark as a swashbuckling centre-forward. He formed a hugely successful partnership with Kevin Hector, later of Derby County and England fame, and on 25th April 1964 he found himself in the Guinness Book of Records. According to the referee, Robert J. Simmons, Jim opened the scoring in the home game against Tranmere Rovers, after just four seconds. Whilst many doubted such a claim, the man with the whistle was the only one with a stop-watch and he remained adamant about his timing.
Jim joined Southport in March 1966 and helped them win promotion to the Third Division in 1966-67. After a short stint with Torquay United, Jim returned to the north-west to join Stockport County in October 1967. That season he scored 22 goals in 32 League games and made the most of the inch-perfect crosses from Johnny Price, who himself would join Rovers under Ken Furphy.
It was his goalscoring form at Edgeley Park that brought him to the attention of Eddie Quigley and a fee of around £30,000 was paid to sign the burly striker. Jim made his debut in a 3-1 win against Bury at Gigg Lane on 19th October 1968. His first goals for the club came in a thrilling 3-2 home win against Birmingham City when Jim notched two goals, including a headed last gasp winner – ironically former Ewood favourite Fred Pickering scored both of the goals for the visitors.
League goals proved hard to come by for Jim that season – just three in total and his third was in the away game against Birmingham City. However, he was on the mark in the FA Cup and notched three goals in three games. His most memorable goal came in the fifth round tie against Manchester City when just over 42,000 packed into Ewood Park. Jim’s headed goal put the Rovers on level terms to give the fans hope before City powered their way to a 4-1 win.
Jim started the 1969-70 season on the bench although he did notch four goals, for the reserves, in a pre-season game against Flint Town United that was part of the Investiture Celebrations for Prince Charles. He made just five starts and eight substitute appearances in League games that season before being sold to Oldham Athletic, in February 1970, for £8,000. In total his time at Ewood Park had produced 8 goals in 41 League and Cup appearances.
In truth, Jim probably arrived in Second Division football rather too late in his career and the Rovers, at the time, certainly didn’t make the most of his strengths as a player.
He was soon back amongst the goals at Boundary Park and his 24 goals in 45 appearances helped Oldham win promotion to the Third Division in 1970-71. He moved to Southport in November 1971 and the following season he played a major part in them lifting of the Fourth Division Championship.
Jim then sampled football in the United States for a few years, returning to England in the winters to play odd games for former clubs Stockport County and Torquay United. He finally settled in the United States and ended his career playing in the North American Soccer League.
After retiring Jim worked as a slot machine repair mechanic in Las Vegas and then at a local golf club. His son Edward was a professional golfer on the American and European tours.
We wish to express our deepest sympathy to Jim’s family and friends at this sad time.