Blackburn, Lancashire born goalkeeper Joe Duckworth started his football career prior to the First World War with Lancashire Combination club Accrington Stanley in 1914, but after the War he joined First Division club Blackburn Rovers, for whom he made his Football League debut at Bolton Wanderers in December 1919, playing 7 times for Rovers as understudy to Alfred Robinson and Ronnie Sewell before joining newly elected Third Division club Aberdare Athletic, where he initially shared goalkeeping duties with Edward Leahy, playing 89 times over a three year period before joining Reading in the summer of 1924.
At Reading he showed incredible consistency and missed only one match in his first four seasons at Elm Park, and was both an ever present member of their 1925-26 Third Division (South) Championship winning team (his winner’s medal was found at a car boot sale in Manchester in 1991) and kept goal in their 1927 FA Cup semi final team when they lost to eventual winners Cardiff City at Molineux. Duckworth played all 10 cup ties in their run, which saw them notably beat Manchester United in a second replay in the third round. In a 1-0 FA Cup 4th round giant killing win against League Championship leaders Sheffield Wednesday at Elm Park in January 1929, he was singled out for particular praise.
In six seasons at Reading he made 225 appearances for The Royals, and in 1930 he joined Brighton & Hove Albion on a free transfer, where he made a further 40 appearances over the next two years, before finishing his career with a move to York City, where he made 7 appearances in the late summer of 1932 before his retirement.