Salford, Lancashire born inside right Tommy Barnett began his football career with Longsight before joining Manchester United, where he spent 1927-28 on their books without making their first eleven. Barnett joined Third Division (South) club Watford in the 1928 close season, making his Football League debut against Gillingham the same September. A creditable return of 17 goals in his debut season included a hat-trick in a 6-3 win over Plymouth Argyle in February 1929. Another treble followed in April 1930 in a win over Swindon Town.
Barnett’s first 20 goal campaign came in 1930-31, when he was second top goalscorer behind George James, his tally of 21 for the campaign included 4 in a 6-0 demolition of Torquay United in November 1930. In September 1931 he scored a hat-trick against Bournemouth, in a season in which he missed only one game, Watford’s FA Cup run saw them beaten in the quarter final at Newcastle United, Barnett scoring 3 times in their 8 ties. He again missed only one match in 1933-34, scoring 17 goals in the campaign, his first season as Watford’s top goalscorer, and repeated the feat in 1935-36, again with 17, and 1936-37, the only season in his career when he scored 20 League goals. In between he scored his final hat-trick for Watford in an FA Cup win over Southall in January 1936.
Barnett continued as a regular in Watford’s first eleven until the outbreak of the Second World War forced the abandonment of peacetime football in September 1939, which effectively ended his career at the age of 30. He was an ever present in their 1937-38 campaign playing 50 matches in total, and played in all 3 games at the start of the abandoned 1939-40 season, by when he had scored a record 164 goals in a record 443 appearances for The Hornets.
Barnett was for many years Watford’s all-time leading goalscorer until his record was eclipsed by Luther Blissett. At the time, he set the record for the most peacetime Watford appearances, which stood until Duncan Welbourne overtook him 35 years later.