After playing junior football in his native city for Victoria United and Aberdeen Jimmy Burnett set out on a senior career with Portsmouth in 1902. The Athletic News commented: ‘A fine physique, speed, cleverness and pluck are the attributes of this promising young forward,’ but despite scoring twelve goals in just sixteen Southern League and F.A. Cup appearances in two seasons, he met with only moderate success at Fratton Park and returned to Scotland in the summer of 1904 for a season with Dundee.
Jimmy was only a fringe member of the team at Dens Park, though, and signed for Grimsby Town in May 1905 where his career took a turn for the better as he scored eleven goals in 52 Second Division outings. In May 1907 he was released to join the Goldstone staff along with team-mate Tom Morris, but despite being a regular in Albion’s Southern League team for the first three months of the 1907-08 season, Jimmy subsequently appeared only sporadically. In May 1908 he was one of four players to join ex-Albion manager Frank Scott-Walford at Leeds City, where he remained until leaving the first-class game in 1910.
Jimmy played 31 matches for the Seagulls in 1907-08 scoring 5 goals.