Jim McNichol, who made an important contribution to Exeter City’s 1990 championship success, had two spells with the club. Initially joining from Brentford, having started his Football League career with Luton Town, Jim left St James’ Park to play for Torquay United before returning ahead of the 1989/90 campaign. Earlier in his career he had represented Scotland at under-21 level.
Jim, originally an apprentice with Ipswich Town, signed professional terms with Luton Town as an eighteen-year-old in July 1976 and made fifteen league appearances for the Hatters. Moving to Brentford in October 1978, Jim proved to be a big success featuring in 155 league matches, scoring 22 goals and representing Scotland seven times at under-21 level.
Arriving at St James’ Park in July 1984, aged twenty-six, Jim made his Exeter City debut against Northampton Town on the opening day of the 1984/85 season and went on to make 42 appearances (5 goals) in his first campaign and 45 appearances (5 goals) in his second ahead of a slightly surprising move to Torquay United in July 1986.
Playing for a team that struggled through 1986/87, and with Torquay on the brink of becoming the first team to be relegated to the Conference, Jim would be remembered for the events of 9 May 1987 when - during the home game against Crewe Alexandra - he was bitten by a police dog. With Torquay trailing and facing relegation, time was added on for Jim’s injury during which time United salvaged a draw and escaped the drop. With that as a turning point, Jim went on to make 124 league appearances for the Plainmoor club (13 goals) reaching the play-offs in 1988 and the Associate Members Cup (later Football League Trophy) final in 1989.
Weeks after appearing at Wembley for Torquay, Jim returned to an Exeter City side now managed by Terry Cooper. Making his re-appearance against Doncaster Rovers on 19 August 1989, Jim missed the next seven games before enjoying 32 games in the middle of the season during which time he scored eight times. Unfortunately for Jim he missed the games in which promotion - and then the championship - were clinched and, continuing to suffer from injury, could only add a further nine appearances during 1990/91.
Jim attempted to continue playing with Torquay but after just two league games retired from professional football in October 1991 to become assistant manager of Torrington alongside running a pub in Ashburton. Shortly afterwards he was awarded with a testimonial game between Exeter City and West Ham United in May 1992. Living locally, and running his pub for thirty-three years until just before COVID-19, Jim often visited St James Park over the years including a gathering of former players held in January 2019.