Darley Hillside, Derbyshire born left half Billy Holmes began his football career with Darley Dale from where he joined Midland League club Chesterfield Town in 1895. He was then signed by Second Division club Manchester City in the 1896 close season, making his Football League debut against Notts County that October, establishing himself in the first team from the following January. A near ever present the next season, missing only one match as The Citizens missed out on promotion finishing third in the division, Holmes was a core member of their 1898-99 Second Division Championship team and was an ever present in their first season in the top flight in 1899-1900.
However Holmes lost his place in April 1901 and spent his final four seasons at Hyde Road as mainly a fringe player, after their relegation in 1902 he played 12 matches during their 1902-03 Second Division Championship campaign, returning to the top flight at the first time of asking. He featured in their 1904 FA Cup semi final win over Sheffield Wednesday at Goodison Park, but he wasn’t in their victorious FA Cup Final eleven that beat Everton at The Crystal Palace a few weeks later, featuring 10 times as they also finished runners up in the League Championship, playing his final match of 166 appearances for Manchester City in November 1904, having scored 4 times for The Citizens.
Holmes transferred to Second Division club Clapton Orient in the 1905 close season, where he played for three seasons, albeit increasingly irregularly in particular after his appointment as their player-manager in March 1906 in succession to Sam Ormerod and interim manager Ike Evenson, his last match as a player coming in a 1-0 win over Derby County in October 1907, by when he had made 51 appearances for The O’s. Holmes led Clapton Orient to successive fourth placed finishes in the Second Division in 1910-11 and 1911-12, and after the First World War had a catastrophic impact on his team with three leading players killed in the conflict, he remained their manager through the four seasons of wartime league play and after the resumption of peacetime football. After a seventh place finish in 1920-21, the next season didn’t go well and he was sacked in February 1922 and replaced by Peter Proudfoot, having managed Clapton Orient in approaching 500 peacetime matches.
His younger brother Norman was also a footballer, playing for Clapton Orient under Billy Holmes, Huddersfield Town and York City prior to the outbreak of the First World War, his career being finished by wounds received while serving in the Army during the conflict.