Wolverhampton 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 in 1922-23, playing 38 League games as Sunderland finished runners up in the League Championship, and 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. He had two seasons at St Andrews scoring 8 goals in 35 games before a move to Lincoln City in the 1929 close season, where he struck 11 times in 33 games during a single season at Sincil Bank. In 1930 he joined York City but played only 4 times, scoring once, before retirement.