A contemporary report had it that Tom McCairns was ‘wonderfully fast considering his weight, and has few equals in keeping his head in front of goal.’ Those qualities enabled him to score a host of goals for Grimsby Town, but he finished his career as a journeyman forward and the Goldstone Ground was just a brief stop on a whirlwind tour of nine clubs in seven years.
After assisting Middlesbrough Ironopolis to the championship of the Northern League in 1890-91, Tom spent two seasons with Whitby before joining Second Division Grimsby in September 1893. In five seasons with the ‘Mariners’ he scored 86 goals in 137 League games, including six in a 7-1 win over Leicester Fosse in April 1896, and was the club’s leading marksman three times. Such form won him a place as leader of the Football League’s attack in a 2-2 draw with the Irish League at the Victoria Ground, Stoke, in November 1895.
When he left the Lincolnshire side at the end of 1897-98, Tom played for Bristol Rovers (signed May 1898), Notts County (May 1899), Lincoln City (November 1899), Barnsley (June 1901), Wellingborough Town (May 1902), Queen’s Park Rangers (May 1903), Brighton & Hove Albion (December 1903), Southern United (May 1904) and Kettering Town.
Tom played 17 matches for the Seagulls scoring 5 goals.