Rawmarsh, near Rotherham, Yorkshire born centre half Phil Bratley started his footballing career with his local amateur side Rawmarsh playing for them between 1896 and 1902 before transferring to Second Division club Doncaster Rovers in the summer of 1902 ahead of their second season in League competition, making his Football League against Barnsley on 27th September and playing twice more through to 11th October. When Doncaster lost their League status at the end of the season he stayed with them in the Midland League before he joined fellow Midland League club Rotherham Town in 1904, moving on to the more successful Rotherham County in 1909. In the 1910 close season he joined Barnsley as a replacement for Tommy Boyle who had been sold to Burnley.
In his second season at Oakwell he played all 12 FA Cup ties and scored Barnsley’s winning goal in their semi-final replay with Swindon at Meadow Lane, Nottingham in their remarkable Cup run, and he won a FA Cup winners medal in the Final when Barnsley beat West Bromwich Albion in a replay at Bramall Lane with Harry Tufnell’s goal two minutes from the end of extra time after the first match at The Crystal Palace ended goalless. Bratley almost scored in the replay; Barnsley having forced a corner, Bratley headed the ball towards the line, only a jumping save at the edge of the goal by Albion goalkeeper Harold Pearson preventing a goal.
After 8 goals in 121 appearances he left Barnsley in May 1914 and transferred to Liverpool with Barnsley teammate Wilf Bartrop. With Harry Lowe out with injury, Bratley made his Liverpool debut in a disastrous 5-0 defeat to Everton at Anfield in October 1914. He had a run of nine matches in the side while Lowe was out of action for three months. Bratley made a further four appearances before the end of the season, bringing his total number of games for the club up to 13, but the onset of the First World War then forced the suspension of peacetime football and severely effectively ended Bratley’s Anfield career.
He then returned to Yorkshire to work in the mines as an Army reservist and played for Barnsley in wartime league football before being called into the British Army during the final months of the First World War, serving in The Coldstream Guards. After the War he re-joined Rotherham County, by now in the Second Division, and played 10 matches for them over the first two post-war seasons before concluding his career in the Midland League with Worksop Town, joining them in 1921, his last club before his eventual retirement, already well into his forties.