Oldbury, Worcestershire born goalkeeper Howard Matthews began his football career with Oldbury St John’s in 1904 and played for Langley St Michael’s in 1905 before being signed as a 20 year old amateur by Second Division Burslem Port Vale in May 1906, making his Football League debut against Leicester Fosse in September 1906 and playing 30 times that season, being preferred to incumbent Arthur Box, before joining newly ex League club Burton United after the season end, where he played a season in the Birmingham & District League.
In April 1908 he joined Second Division Oldham Athletic becoming their regular goalkeeper from the start of 1908-09, and he missed only one match as they were promoted to The First Division in 1909-10 as Second Division runners up. He played in the 1913 FA Cup semi final when Oldham Athletic were narrowly beaten 1-0 by eventual winners Aston Villa at Ewood Park, and after the onset of the First World War forced the suspension of peacetime football, Matthews continued to be Oldham’s principal goalkeeper after the conflict, albeit he had to share the gloves with England international goalkeeper Ted Taylor in 1919-20 who dislodged him in 1920-21. However when Taylor moved to Herbert Chapman’s Huddersfield Town he was once again undisputed between the sticks for two further seasons, despite their relegation from the top flight in 1923.
He lost his place from August 1924 to Bert Gray, playing only 9 more Latics matches and after 367 appearances he returned to Port Vale in October 1926 a remarkable 19 years since his release as an amateur, and played 21 League games in the 1926-27 campaign ahead of auspicious rivals Tom Fern, George Holdcroft, and Alex Binnie. However he was seriously injured from a kick to the back by South Shields winger Alex Trotter in a 3-3 draw on 5th February 1927.
He then lost his first team place to Alf Bennett, and after making 16 League and Cup appearances in the 1927-28 season, he was given a free transfer away from The Old Recreation Ground in May 1928. Despite already being well into his 40’s he managed to go on playing, joining Halifax Town in August. The Shaymen finished 13th in Third Division (North), before dropping into the re-election zone in 1929-30, with Matthews making only 7 of his 41 Halifax appearances that season. He later played for Cheshire County League Chester from 1930 in their final season before attaining League status, and finished his career with Oswestry Town from 1931, by when he was already a 45 year old.