Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire born goalkeeper John “Tiny” Joyce, his nickname in allusion to his size, being 6 feet tall and weighing over 14 stone, started his football career with his hometown club, Burton Pioneers in 1895, before spells with two clubs in neighbouring Derbyshire, Woodville in 1896 and Overseal Town in 1897. Whilst playing for Overseal Town, he was spotted by scouts from Southern League Champions Southampton, for whom he was signed for a fee of £80 together with his Overseal teammate, Sid Cavendish in May 1898.
Joyce made his debut against Warmley in December 1898, but Warmley shortly afterwards withdrew from the League and their record was expunged. As a result, Joyce’s official debut was delayed until 21st October 1899, in a 5-1 victory over Queen’s Park Rangers. At Southampton, Joyce was an understudy to England international Jack Robinson and Robinson’s form meant that Joyce’s first team opportunities were rare. Nonetheless, he was a useful goalkeeper to have in reserve and was able to use his bulk to punt the ball upfield further than any other contemporary goalkeeper. After 7 Southern League appearances, Joyce moved to fellow Southern League club Millwall Athletic in May 1900 in search of regular first team football.
After a season with Millwall, Joyce returned to his home town to join the newly formed Football League club Burton United as they entered the Second Division in August 1901. After failing to break into the first-team at Burton, where he was understudy to former Burton Swifts goalkeeper Dick Gray, Joyce was transferred to Blackburn Rovers in May 1902, where he made his Football League debut against Middlesbrough that September. At Blackburn, he vied for the No.1 shirt with Willie McIver but after making 14 appearances he returned to London in the spring of 1903. After a brief spell with Tottenham Hotspur, he returned to Millwall Athletic in the summer where he was to remain for the next six years. In December 1905, he was briefly displaced as first-choice ‘keeper by Jack Robinson, under whom he had played at Southampton, before regaining his place.
He re-joined Tottenham in 1909, by now a League club. At White Hart Lane, Joyce was initially first choice glovesman, before losing his place to Tommy Lunn but by 1912 he had ousted Lunn and taken over as the regular custodian. On 10th April 1914, Joyce scored from a penalty in a 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers and followed this with another against Bayern Munich in a friendly a month later. Joyce had also scored eight times from the spot in the reserves between December 1910 and January 1914. Joyce played a total of 81 first team matches for Spurs and was still on their books following the outbreak of the First World War, during which he again played for Millwall Athletic. After a loan spell at Gillingham in 1919 he played for Northfleet United and retired in 1921. He then returned to Millwall, by now a Football League club, as a trainer. In March 1933 he became Millwall’s caretaker manager for the final 8 games of the season when Bob Hunter became ill, and remained as assistant trainer until 1938, when he became a member of the ground staff.