Rotherham born left back Cliff Jones began his football career with Midland League hometown club Rotherham Town, from where aged 20 he signed for Second Division Gainsborough Trinity in 1911, making his Football League debut against Leicester Fosse at Northolme that September, playing 13 times during Trinity’s final season as a League club. He had clearly impressed playing in two matches against Burnley, one a home win over The Clarets in January 1912, however when Trinity failed to get re-election, he remained at Trinity as they returned to The Midland League. Gainsborough were drawn in the FA Cup Second Round to play none other than Burnley once again, a tie played at Turf Moor on 1st February 1913.
In front of a crowd of 18,000, Trinity gave an excellent account of themselves despite losing 4-1 to The Clarets, and less than two hours after the game Jones was signed by Burnley along with full back partner Sam Gunton and future England goalkeeper Ronnie Sewell for a collective transfer fee of £2,000. All three players made their Burnley debuts in a 3-3 draw at Bristol City the next week, Jones playing 9 times that season as The Clarets were promoted to the First Division as Second Division runners up.
He remained a fringe player until the suspension of peacetime football in 1915 due to the advent of the First World War, having made only 18 first team appearances, and he was not part of their 1914 FA Cup winning team, and during the War he guested regularly for Chesterfield during wartime league football. Having been called up to Army service, he was a gunner and survived his service which included fighting at the notorious Passchandaele, the Third Battle of Ypres, where nearly as many men died from drowning in mud as from the enemy’s efforts.
However on the resumption of peacetime football in 1919 he returned to Turf Moor whereupon he became a regular in their first team, establishing a fine partnership with Len Smelt, playing 19 times as Burnley finished runners up in 1919-20, still in competition with Scottish full back David Taylor who had played in the 1914 Cup Final triumph, and 34 times during the 1920-21 campaign when Burnley went one better, winning the League Championship for the first time in the club’s history.
In December 1919 Jones was sent off against Oldham Athletic at Boundary Park, becoming the first Burnley player to be dismissed for over 20 years, when he uncharacteristically retaliated to a reckless challenge from Oldham winger Alf Dolphin, which led to the club suspending him for two months in punishment, and the return of David Taylor to The Clarets’ eleven, Indeed Taylor was still in possession of the jersey at the start of the 1920-21 season, but Jones soon returned to the left back slot in October 1920, playing in 23 of Burnley’s 30 unbeaten run of League matches between 6th September and 26th March, a run that at the time eclipsed all previous unbeaten runs in the history of League football since its commencement in 1888.
However he only made 14 more appearances in 1921-22, his Burnley career ended abruptly in November 1921 when Taylor again took his place in the team following a poor performance in a 2-1 defeat at Preston North End, before, frustrated by his inability to regain his first team place, Jones joined Accrington Stanley in December 1922 after 85 appearances for The Clarets, but due to injury and illness he never made Stanley’s first eleven and retired from professional football a few months thereafter.