Middleton, Leeds born centre forward Ernie Goldthorpe served with The Pay Corps of The Coldstream Guards during the First World War and while stationed in London he joined Tottenham Hotspur as a wartime guest, before moving back to Yorkshire at the end of the conflict to sign for Bradford City, where he made his Football League debut in September 1919 against Preston North End, although he didn’t get another opportunity in the first team until near the year end. In all he played 19 games and scored six goals for The Bantams during his debut season but moved on in the summer of 1920 to hometown club Leeds United.
He played two injury-hit seasons with Leeds United, appearing in the club’s inaugural League fixture at Port Vale in August 1920. He had only played half a dozen games, scoring twice, when injury struck. A brief return to Bradford City, without making any further appearances, was followed by a move to Second Division club Manchester United in the summer of 1922, with Goldthorpe making his debut for The Red Devils at Clapton Orient in November 1922, scoring in a 1-1 draw.
He scored four goals in a 6-1 win at Notts County in February 1923, and a total of 14 goals in 25 matches during his debut season. But he soon became a fringe player, scoring twice in 5 appearances over the next two seasons. In the summer of 1925, he was transferred to Rotherham County, where he scored once in only two appearances that autumn before he retired from professional football.