Chester-le-Street, County Durham born centre forward Ernie Matthews started his football career with Ravensworth Colliery Welfare in 1930 and spent time as an amateur on the books of Leeds United during 1931-32 without making their first eleven. He joined Usworth Colliery in 1931 and played for Kibblesworth Colliery Welfare in 1933 from where he joined Second Division Bury in April 1934, making his Football League debut at Doncaster Rovers in September 1935. In a sensational debut season he scored hat-tricks against West Ham United and Hull City as he netted 30 goals in 39 games. Between 1935 and 1937, he scored 48 goals in 76 appearances, in addition Matthews was the third highest goalscorer in the entire Football League.
Sheffield Wednesday signed Matthews for £3,700 in September 1937, Matthews making his debut in the Second Division game with Tottenham Hotpsur on 16th September 1937, a game which Wednesday lost 3-0 at Hillsborough. He went on to make 16 appearances for the club, scoring seven goals before Southern League side Colchester United paid £2,500 for Matthews in May 1938.
He made a goalscoring debut for Colchester on 27th August, scoring the U’s second goal in a 2-0 win over Gillingham at Layer Road. However, two weeks later, he suffered knee ligament damage, ruling him out until December. During this time, Arthur Pritchard had scored 17 goals at the rate of a goal a game, limiting Matthews’ chances in the first team. He made six League appearances for Colchester, scoring three times, before being released by the club at the end of the 1938–39 season. He then returned to the North East to play for Ashington, retiring with the onset of the Second World War.