Stoke-on-Trent born full back (he could play both sides) Billy Cope began his football career in local football with Mount Pleasant before signing for Second Division Burslem Port Vale in August 1904, making his Football League debut against Barnsley that October. After three seasons and 77 appearances which included one of his only two career goals (in a 3-3 draw at Lincoln City in January 1905 during his first season), Burslem Port Vale resigned from The Football League and Cope signed for neighbours Stoke City. However after only one season and 31 games he was again without a club as Stoke also resigned from the League due to financial difficulties.
He moved to Oldham Athletic in June 1908 where he played 65 games for the club over six seasons at Boundary Park without ever establishing himself as a regular member of the team, playing 9 times in 1909-10 as they were promoted to the top flight as Second Division runners up, and scoring his other career goal in their first season in Division One in a 3-1 victory over Liverpool in December 1910. He was also a member of their 1913 FA Cup semi final team beaten 1-0 by eventual winners Aston Villa at Ewood Park.
Cope signed for Southern League West Ham United in the summer of 1914, playing 33 times for them before The First World War and continuing to play for them in wartime football. Resuming with West Ham after the War, this time in the Football League, he made a further 114 appearances, leaving them at the end of 1921-22 season. He joined Wrexham for a single season in the Third Division (North) making 13 appearances before his retirement in 1923, already aged 38.