Blaydon, County Durham born inside forward Joe Armstrong began his football career in north east junior football with Hedgefield in 1911 and Scotswood in 1912 before signing for Southern League Portsmouth in December 1913. He played both sides of the First World War for Pompey and scored 15 goals in 35 appearances during the campaign as Portsmouth won the 1919-20 Southern League Championship. When Portsmouth entered the Football League in 1920, Armstrong scored twice in 13 games to add to his 18 goals in 46 appearances in Southern League and FA Cup games for Pompey prior to their election to the League.
In the summer of 1921 he joined Second Division Sheffield Wednesday, but he was a fringe player at Hillsborough making only 7 appearances before moving to Norwich City in December that year. He scored 8 goals in 22 appearances during the remainder of the season for The Canaries, before first joining non league Clapton, and then returning to Scotswood in 1922. In 1923 he joined newly elected League club Boscombe (AFC Bournemouth as of today), scoring twice in 29 appearances in their maiden League campaign but spending only a single season with The Cherries before returning to non league football with Portsmouth Tramways in 1924.