Preston, Lancashire born centre half Joe Craven began his football career after the First World War with junior sides Frenchwood Villa in 1919, Preston YMCA in 1920, St Augustine’s in 1921 and Croston in 1922, from where he was signed by Second Division Stockport County in 1923, making his Football League debut at Stoke in February 1924, playing in the return fixture a week later, his only two appearances of his debut season. He featured in 3 more matches in 1924-25 for The Hatters before signing for hometown club Preston North End in October 1925, scoring his only career goal playing at inside right on his Preston debut in a 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers in January 1926, his only appearance of the season.
Indeed he made only 4 appearances in four seasons for Preston before breaking into the first team in October 1929, making a further 63 appearances in his final two seasons at Deepdale before a move to Swansea Town in June 1931. After a season as a first team regular for The Swans, he became once again a fringe player for two more campaigns before joining Port Vale in June 1934 after 50 appearances for Swansea Town, with whom he also won a Welsh Cup winner’s medal in 1932 when they beat Wrexham in a replay.
After a run of eight games for Vale, where he was the club captain, from the start of the 1934-35 season he picked up an injury and played just a further three games at The Old Recreation Ground before moving to Newport County in June 1935, making 29 appearances for The Exiles as they struggled towards the foot of the Third Division (South) in 1935-36. He returned to Lancashire in June 1936 with Accrington Stanley, for whom he was ever present in 1936-37 for the only time in his career, but lost his place in November 1937 and played only once more at the end of the season, joining non league Leyland Motors as player-manager in 1938 before his eventual retirement.