A FORMER Burnley footballer who earned “legend” status in Australia has lost his battle with a rare “two-in-a-million” form of cancer.
James “Jimmy” McBreen played at Burnley United before being scouted for Australian top flight team during the Seventies.
The prolific striker, nicknamed “Mr Magic”, was considered one of the Lancashire club’s greatest talents and went on to become a fans’ favourite at the now-defunct Newcastle KB United.
But last July the father-of-one who “lived for football” was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma – a rare cancer which affects the bile duct. He sadly died last Wednesday aged just 58.
Jimmy’s sisters Gail Caine and Louise Carter, who still live in Burnley, paid tribute to the larger-than life character who loved to laugh and joke and doted on his family.
“He was such a huge character. Everything he did he wanted to do it big style.
“Jimmy’s philosophy was ‘live the dream and live life to the full’. He always lived for the moment. He was born and he lived that way right up until the moment he died. He lived life the way he wanted.
“He a very generous man and he was a born entertainer. Right up until the very end he was still entertaining.”
Jimmy moved over to Australia in 1976 with his then wife Cathy after being scouted by ex-Burnley man Peter Irving who coaches Edgeworth Soccer Club in New South Wales.
He played as a striker for Newcastle KB United before moving to National Soccer League side Wollongong United. He later plied his trade with Apia – an Italian club based in Australia.
He continued to play amateur football every weekend right up until he was diagnosed with cancer.
His son Daniel (34) also became a professional footballer and currently plays as a striker for Central Coast Mariners and turned out for a string of clubs including Scunthorpe. York City and Falkirk.
Outside of football Jimmy built up his own financial advisory business called James McBreen & Associates in Sydney.
He was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma last July. Doctors told him he could have just days to live, but Jimmy confounded medical science with his battle against the disease.
Louise said: “It was a very, very rare form of cancer. Only two people in every million get it.
“By the time it is diagnosed it has often already broken out in the liver because it is a very fast-spreading cancer.
“At first doctors said he had literally days to live. They were absolutely astounded with Jimmy because of his sheer determination. After five months he was still getting up, getting dressed and doing things by himself.”
He led a dignified battle against the cancer and spend his last days surrounded by friends and family including wife Leone (46), son Daniel and grandson Noah (1).
Louise added: “The love and respect from friends, associates and former players has been absolutely unbelievable. People who he had not seen for 30 years who he played against have been telling us how fantastic he was and what a brilliant footballer he was.”
Jimmy’s funeral was held at noon in Australia on Wednesday where several hundred people were expected to attend. A mass was held in his hometown of Burnley on Tuesday at noon at St John’s RC Church to coincide with the service in New South Wales.
He is survived by wife Leone, son Daniel, grandson Noah and sisters Gail and Louise.