Dawley Bank, Shropshire born goalkeeper Joe Butler began his football career with hometown junior club Dawley Town in 1897 and also played for Bamfurlong Rovers in 1898 before joining Second Division Stockport County in May 1899, making his Football League debut at Burton Swifts in September 1900. Although he joined Clapton Orient in May 1905, he soon returned to Stockport the following February after 24 appearances for the Londoners, and by the time he left the Edgeley Park club for Glossop in March 1908 he had played 185 times for The Hatters.
At Glossop he never missed a match in four years, playing 170 times consecutively for The Hillmen before a move to First Division Sunderland in October 1912. He played 41 times that season as Sunderland won the League Championship and got to the FA Cup Final, only to be beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa in the Final at Crystal Palace in front of 121,919 spectators, and to be denied “The Double” by a goal 12 minutes from time in a controversial Final. He played 38 times the following season but Sunderland couldn’t repeat their great season, finishing 7th in the League.
Butler joined Lincoln City in June 1914 playing 39 times during their 1914-15 campaign before the onset of the First World War causing the suspension of peacetime football interrupted his career, having made 3 short of 500 senior career appearances. During the War he appeared 4 times for Liverpool as a wartime guest in 1916-17 and twice more in 1917-18, and he also played for Stockport County. After the War he spent three years with Cheshire County League club Macclesfield Town from 1919 making 26 appearances, and finished his playing days with Vernon Park Amateurs, joining them in November 1922, before his eventual retirement.