Gornal, Staffordshire born right back Willie Layton played junior football for Blackwell Colliery in 1894 before joining Chesterfield Town in 1896, from where he joined First Division Sheffield Wednesday in 1897. He made his Football League debut at Everton in January 1898, making one further appearance a week later in his debut season. The following season he played more than half of Wednesday’s matches as they were relegated for the first time from the First Division.
After their relegation in 1899 he was part of the team that won the Second Division Championship in 1900, missing only one match during the campaign. Although he never received international recognition he was selected to play once for The Football League against The Irish League at The Solitude, Belfast in November 1900, as the visitors won the match 4-2. He then was a key member of the Wednesday team that won back to back League Championships in 1902-03 and 1903-04, and was an ever present in the latter campaign, when he also played as Wednesday reached the 1904 FA Cup semi final, losing to eventual winners Manchester City at Goodison Park.
Layton was in Sheffield Wednesday’s teams that won the 1905 Sheriff of London Charity Shield, when they beat The Corinthians 2-1 at The Crystal Palace in April 1905, and also the 1907 FA Cup Final, beating Everton 2-1 in the Final at The Crystal Palace having played in all seven of their cup ties en route to the Final. He made his final appearance for the club at Tottenham Hotspur in September 1909 and left to join non league Whitwell St Lawrence in 1910 after 4 goals in 362 appearances for The Owls over thirteen seasons with the club.
Willie was the older brother of footballer Edward Layton, who played reserve team football for Sheffield United, subsequently playing for Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Cardiff City and Stockport County in a career that spanned both sides of the First World War. In 1912 the brothers left England to travel across Australia, where they played for a number of clubs. Whilst there Edward was ‘capped’ in a match between New South Wales and Queensland. They returned to England in 1914.