New Silksworth, Sunderland born inside forward Joe Clennell began his football career with Seaham White Star and Silksworth United in 1908, playing for Seaham Harbour in 1909, before signing for Second Division Blackpool in May 1910. He made his Football League debut at Leeds City in September 1910 and scored 19 goals in 33 games for The Seasiders, soon attracting the attention of Blackburn Rovers who signed him in April 1911. The next season he scored 9 goals in 18 League appearances as Rovers won the League Championship. However he found it difficult to establish himself at Rovers and played only 28 games over two and three quarter years at Ewood Park, scoring 12 goals, before joining Everton on 23rd January 1914, scoring on his home debut the next day in a defeat to Aston Villa.
The following year he scored 14 goals in 36 games as The Toffees became the last League Champions before the suspension of football due to the onset of the First World War, and also scored 3 times in their FA Cup campaign, Clennell a part of their 1915 FA Cup semi final team that lost to Chelsea at Villa Park. He resumed with Everton after the War, although after an initial burst of games in 1919-20 he rarely played until his transfer to Cardiff City in October 1921, having scored 33 goals in 74 games for The Toffees.
At Cardiff he was a regular starter over the next three seasons. After 14 goals in 1922-23, including a hat-trick in a 5-1 win at Burnley in March 1923, his 11 goals almost helped Cardiff win the League Championship in 1923-24, as they agonisingly missed out to Huddersfield Town on goal average, but the following season he struggled to get into the team with Harry Beadles taking his place, and he signed for Second Division Stoke in February 1925 after 41 goals in 135 games for The Bluebirds. He scored 9 goals in 35 games for The Potters over the next 18 months before a move to Bristol Rovers in September 1926, where he scored 6 goals in 21 appearances, and he finally moved to Rochdale in October 1927, scoring 5 goals in 15 appearances for Dale, his last senior club. He moved to non league Ebbw Vale in January 1928 and moved on to Barry Town later the same year. He played for Bangor in 1929 and stayed two years in North Wales, joining Great Harwood in 1931 before his retirement from football in 1932, already well into his forties by then.