Past Player Interview | Jim Holmes

By Gareth Ewing

When Morton fans of a certain age gather together, reminiscing on their favourite team, their favourite players and their favourite era, more often than not the names of ‘Baines, Hayes, Holmes’ will trip off the tongue.

I am a ‘Baines, Hayes and Holmes’ man. Name any Morton team from the period 1976 to 1988, and I guarantee you will get to that third name, the left-back, and the name Holmes will be there. Jim Holmes.

The term legend is thrown about far too loosely in the footballing world these days. But Jim Holmes is a living legend in the Greenock Morton stakes.

Joining the Ton from Partick Thistle, Jim went on to don the blue and white hoops on over 400 occasions – 530 competitive career appearances in total, plus one as a sub – over a 12-year period.

Calm and composed, silky and technically gifted, it will remain a mystery to many a Morton man as to why he was not capped by Scotland.

As a star struck young boy, I was brought up watching Jim master the left full-back position, defending solidly and marauding in attack, frequently displaying the ‘Holmer double shuffle’ as he glided past opponents.

I picked up the phone, curiously rather nervously as this 46-year-old author was about to ‘meet’ one of his footballing heroes, and asked Jim a few questions.

Who was the best Morton player you played with?

I played with a lot of great players over the 12 years at Cappielow. It’s difficult and probably unfair to single one of them out.  There were players on the way up and also players who had peaked at other clubs. Players like Dom Sullivan, Jackie McNamara and Willie Pettigrew. John McMaster, too. But big Andy Ritchie was the icing on the cake … and the ingredients too!

Who was your most difficult opponent?

That is a hard one. I played against loads of great Premier League and Division One players.  Peter Marinello and Gordon Strachan spring to mind. Davie Provan and David Cooper also.  Probably the biggest ‘doin’ I got was from Mickey Weir at Hibs. He was a tricky player. I didn’t mind playing against the tricky wingers; it was the hard-working wingers I hated.  The ones that tracked back. It meant that they would match my run, which made it harder for me to get on the ball. Most teams played a winger. Some weeks wee Hannibal [Davie Hayes] would be marking, which allowed me to get forward. Other weeks it would be me marking and Hannibal would be up and down the pitch.

Favourite away ground?

Easily Rugby Park. It was like a bowling green. I loved playing there. When we played there, I was always the first out to warm up. Kilmarnock were always great to play against. Good team. Oh, they also had a snooker room too. Great relaxation for the Killie players before the game. Although, we used to eat at the Tontine, watch ‘On the Ball’, then go to the local snooker room with John McNeil and a few others and have a game before reporting at Cappielow for 1.45pm.

Best manager you played under and why?

I played under a few good managers and the good thing was they all picked me!  They were all good managers in their own way, all having their own strengths. But for me it must be Benny Rooney and Mick Jackson. They were the best for me as they gave me loads of confidence when I was young. Benny never restricted me or told me how to play.

Most memorable match playing for the Ton?

The promotion games are the obvious ones. The Airdrie one was unbelievable. An exciting night. Beating St. Mirren in the Fergie era was memorable also as he had a right good team then. But the most exciting game for atmosphere and crowd size was against Hearts in 1977 at Cappielow. I was right-back that day. Big Andy was outstanding. Brilliant night. I remember Drew Busby came to Cappielow after that. Lovely guy Drew. I never heard him bring anyone down. Although he did make the point that Morton never ever beat Hearts when he was in the Hearts team. There was no Google in those days, so we couldn’t check it out!

You perfected the ‘double shuffle’ as you skipped past players.  Where did that come from?

It just happened, to be honest. I would drop my shoulder to go one way, then go the other way! Then, I developed it more and added the step over. I was playing for Partick Thistle reserves against Hamilton, about 1975, and it was the first time I tried it. Then I came to Cappielow and just perfected it. I can’t remember a time when it didn’t come off. I can’t even remember doing it at training. It just kind of happened.

Do you follow the fortunes of the Ton?

I do. My son Graeme was there for a season, of course. It was great going back and meeting some of the guys.

Jim, I get the sense you look fondly back on those days and enjoying talking about them?

I love it and loved playing for Morton. Big Andy and I used to travel together. You know that bit when you are coming down the motorway and you see the water? We would get excited, really looking forward to the match. Arrive at Cappielow for about 10.45am, bit of light training, then Tontine for lunch. Snooker or a wee walk then ready for the game. I loved it, really loved it. Great times. I loved the reunion event. Just seeing all the boys was amazing. It was a great night.


Be sure to purchase a copy of our fantastic 48-page matchday magazine, printed by publishers Curtis Sport, at tomorrow’s home game against Ross County to read Gareth’s interview with Stan Rankin.

Back issues are also available and these can be purchased by visiting the office here at Cappielow or by contacting us via email: or 01475 723571.


Image: Jonathan Mitchell