Bearpark, County Durham born wing half Joe Gardiner joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in December 1932, signing professionally the following year before making his Football League debut on 23rd February 1935 in a 2-5 loss at Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion.
He originally joined as a centre-forward but was converted to a centre-back, as he became a first choice player in the seasons preceding World War Two. He appeared in the 1939 FA Cup Final for the club, where they lost to Portsmouth in the Wembley showpiece. He also narrowly missed out on glory in the League Championship as the club finished runners-up for two successive seasons in 1937-38 and 1938-39. By the time War came he had scored twice for Wolves in 142 appearances.
He remained with the club while the Football League was suspended during wartime, turning out in regional action. He announced his playing retirement in May 1944 but remained on the coaching staff. He was the club’s main trainer in the Stan Cullis era as the club became one of the great sides of Europe, winning three League titles and two FA Cups, and was caretaker manager between September and November 1964.
When Cullis became manager of neighbours Birmingham City in 1965, Gardiner joined him again. He returned to Wolves in 1969 as a scout, and helped discover the likes of John Richards.