Enniscorthy, Wexford born outside right Bill Lacey had played for junior club Lansdowne and first played senior football with Shelbourne in 1906 and in 1908, together with Val Harris and Joseph Ledwidge, he helped them reach the Final of the Irish Cup. Lacey scored in the 1-1 draw against Bohemians at Dalymount Park and also played in the replay which Shelbourne lost 3-1. Lacey followed Val Harris to Everton in February 1909 and made his Football League debut, leading the forward line, against Bradford City in April 1909. During his time at Everton he also played as a half-back but struggled for a regular place, and made 40 appearances scoring 11 goals in nearly 4 years at the club.
In February 1912 Lacey joined Liverpool bought Lacey along with Tom Gracie, as part of swap that saw Harold Uren join Everton, as well as paying £300. Lacey made his Liverpool debut, as a left-winger, on 2nd March 1912 in a First Division match against Middlesbrough and scored his first goal for the club on 16th March in a 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. In 1914, playing as an inside forward, he scored 5 goals in 7 games as he helped Liverpool reach their first ever FA Cup Final. However Liverpool lost the match 1-0 to Burnley at The Crystal Palace.
During the First World War, Lacey returned to Ireland and played as a guest in the Belfast and District League, first for the now defunct team, Belfast United, and then for Linfield. While with Linfield he helped them reach two successive Irish Cup finals in 1918 and 1919, finishing as runners-up and winners respectively. After returning to Liverpool in 1919, Lacey helped them to win two successive League Championships in 1922 and 1923 before losing his place later in 1923. Lacey left Liverpool in June 1924 after 29 goals in 259 appearances for The Reds, and briefly played with New Brighton making 7 appearances in the autumn of 1924.
After a successful career in the English League, Lacey returned to Shelbourne for a second spell in May 1925 and, together with Val Harris, helped them win the League of Ireland title in 1926. He finished his playing career with Cork Bohemians in 1932 aged 42.
Between 1909 and 1924 Lacey won 23 caps and scored 3 goals for the Ireland. He won the first 10 caps while at Everton, the next 12 at Liverpool and his last with New Brighton. He made his international debut on 13th February 1909 in a 4-0 defeat to England and then on 20th March he scored his first international goal in a 3-2 defeat against Wales.
Although Lacey only scored two more goals for the Ireland, they would prove significant. Along with Val Harris, Patrick O’Connell and Billy Gillespie, Lacey helped Ireland win the 1914 British Home Championship. On 14th February he scored twice as Ireland beat England 3-0 at Ayresome Park. In a game which saw Lacey play in three different positions, including in goal, Ireland then clinched the title following a 1-1 draw with Scotland at Windsor Park, Belfast. He made his last appearance for the Ireland on 22nd October 1924 in 3-1 defeat against England.
After returning to Shelbourne, Lacey also won 3 caps and scored 1 goal for the Irish Free State (FA of Ireland). On 23rd April 1927, at the age of 37, he became the oldest player to ever make his debut for the FAI XI when he was selected to play against Italy B – this was later surpassed in 1931 by 40-year-old Patsy Gallacher whose first appearance was also his last. On 12th February 1928 Lacey inspired the FAI XI to a comeback. 2-0 down at half-time, he scored the FAI XI’s opening goal in a 4-2 away win against Belgium. On 11th May 1930, at the age of 41, he became the oldest player ever to play for the FAI XI when he played against Belgium again. In his three appearances for the FAI XI, he played as outside-right, inside-right and right-back. In addition during his second spell with Shelbourne he also represented The League of Ireland 3 times in representative matches.
During the 1930’s Lacey also coached the FAI XI on several occasions. At the time the team was selected by a committee of selectors and coaches were appointed on a game by game basis. Lacey took charge of the FAI XI on at least four occasions. On 13th December 1931 he was in charge of the FAI XI that lost 5-0 to Spain. He had little chance to influence the result as he was unable to get in touch with all the players until the morning of the game. On 25th February 1934, Lacey was also in charge of the first FAI XI to compete in a FIFA World Cup qualifier. The team, featuring Paddy Moore, Jimmy Kelly and Joe Kendrick, drew 4-4 with Belgium with Moore scoring all four goals for the FAI XI. Lacey also coached the FAI XI that played the Netherlands on 5th December 1935. In terms of preparation, the team did better than usual, with Lacey organising three coaching sessions the week before the game. Despite this the FAI XI still lost 5-2. However, on 17th October 1936, Lacey coached the FAI XI to one of their best results of the pre-Second World War era when a team featuring Paddy Moore and Tom Davis, beat Germany 5-2 at Dalymount Park.
Lacey was appointed coach of Bohemians at the start of the 1933-34 season and with a team that included Fred Horlacher and Billy Jordan he subsequently guided them to a League of Ireland and League of Ireland Shield double. He also guided them to an FAI Cup win in 1935.