Born in Scotswood, Newcastle upon Tyne inside right Bobby Barclay started his career with amateur clubs Scotswood United Church in 1923, Bell’s Close Amateurs in 1924, Allendale in 1925 and Scotswood in 1926 before signing for First Division Derby County in 1928 making his Football League debut at Newcastle United that December. He spent three seasons with The Rams scoring 26 goals in 64 appearances, including 17 goals in 1929-30 with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in April 1930 as Derby County finished as runners up in the League Championship, Barclay finishing as the club’s second highest scorer.
In June 1931 Barclay signed for Sheffield United for £3,500 and scored a hat-trick against West Ham in his second home match that September. He was cool and methodical in his play, very clever, and was bought to lend inspiration to Jimmy Dunne in attack, although he also provided plenty of openings for the other attacking team-mates (like inside forward Jack Pickering). He missed only 4 games in his first three seasons, being ever present in 1932-33. Despite their relegation to the Second Division in 1933-34 he remained a stalwart at Bramall Lane and was an important figure in The Blades’ FA Cup side of 1936, appearing in the Final in which United lost 1-0 to Arsenal at Wembley, during a season in which he missed only one game. He finished the season with a further hat-trick against The Hammers in a 4-2 win the following month.
Barclay scored 70 goals for The Blades in 249 starts, although it has been said on numerous occasions that given his apparent unselfishness in front of goal, he should have scored many more. He was picked for England in April 1932 against Scotland at Wembley scoring in a 3-0 victory, and scored again against Ireland at Bloomfield Road that October. His third and final cap came against Scotland, again at Wembley, in April 1936.
Huddersfield Town paid £7,000 to sign Barclay (and teammate Edward Boot) on 15th March 1937. He was once again an FA Cup Finalist with Huddersfield, playing as they lost 1-0 to Preston North End in the 1938 Final at Wembley. He played 89 times for The Terriers, scoring 23 goals before the Second World War forced the cessation of peacetime football in September 1939. During the War he guested for various clubs including Barnsley, Bradford, Bradford City, Crewe Alexandra, Oldham Athletic, Sheffield United and York City. Barclay was released by Huddersfield on the resumption of League football in 1946, when he joined Hurst of the Cheshire League where he played until retirement. After leaving Hurst he returned to Huddersfield Town to become their assistant trainer, and subsequently coached in The Netherlands.