Bolton upon Dearne, Yorkshire born centre half Bill “Beau” Ratcliffe began his football career with Mexborough Athletic in 1928 and played for Thurnscoe Victoria in 1929 and Bolton Albion in 1930 before joining Bradford Park Avenue as an amateur in December 1930, spending the rest of 1930-31 on their books without making the first eleven. After an unsuccessful trial at Charlton Athletic, he joined Third Division (North) club New Brighton in October 1931 and made his Football League debut at Hartlepools United the same month, establishing himself immediately as their first choice centre half, a position he retained until 1935 when, having been an ever present in New Brighton’s 1034-35 campaign, he joined the exodus of British professionals to the French League, signing for Le Havre, having scored 4 goals in 144 appearances for The Rakers.
Clearly the French adventure wasn’t to his taste, as he soon returned to sign for Oldham Athletic in June 1935, and spent the final four seasons of peacetime football before the Second World War, missing no more than 4 matches a season for The Latics, where he became club captain and was absent for only a single match in 1937-38 as Oldham recorded their second consecutive fourth place finish in the Third Division (North). However the outbreak of the War in September 1939, by when scored once in 172 appearances for Oldham Athletic, severely interrupted his career and after the War, already 37 years old, he joined Reading in May 1946 and made 33 appearances for The Royals in the first two peacetime seasons. He joined Watford in May 1948 and made 25 appearances for The Hornets during a single season at Vicarage Road before moving into non league football with Runcorn in the summer of 1949, joining his final club, Earlestown, in 1951 before his eventual retirement.