Wolverhampton, Staffordshire born outside left Billy Ellis began his football career before the First World War playing Midlands junior football for Highfield Villa in 1911, Willenhall Swifts in 1912, Bilston Juniors in 1913 and Willenhall in 1914. After the end of the conflict he signed for Sunderland in 1919, making his Football League debut at Middlesbrough in March 1920. Initially a fringe player, he became a regular in the Sunderland first team from January 1922.
Described as “a most valuable asset to the Wearside club’s front rank… an exceedingly clever winger… a tricky and crafty dribbler, he has a rare turn of speed, and many of his dandy crosses have meant goals for the famous Charlie Buchan”, Ellis played 38 League matches as Sunderland finished runners up in the 1922-23 League Championship, and he missed only two matches the following season as The Wearsiders finished third, linking up well with Charlie Buchan for whom he created many goals.
He stayed on Wearside until November 1927, when after 32 goals in 200 appearances for Sunderland he transferred to Birmingham City. Never assured of a first team place, he had two seasons at St Andrews scoring 8 goals in 35 matches for The Blues before a move to Third Division (North) club Lincoln City in the 1929 close season, where he had his best season as a goalscorer, netting 12 times in 33 matches during a single season at Sincil Bank. In the summer of 1930 he joined York City but played only 4 times before the end of the year for The Minstermen, scoring once, before his retirement.