Hamilton born centre forward Dave McCulloch began his career with Hamilton Amateurs in 1930, joining Shotts United in 1931, from where he was signed byThird Lanark in 1932. After two years at Cathkin Park, he was signed by Hearts for £530, moving east at the same time as his Thirds team-mate John MacKenzie. His first season at Tynecastle was notable, as he scored 38 times (at an average of a goal per game) to top the First Division scoring charts. Such a goal-scoring ratio helped Hearts to both a third-place finish and increased attendances, although Double-winners Rangers proved too strong in the Scottish Cup semi-finals. He played for The Scottish League in October 1934 scoring in a 2-1 defeat to The Football League at Stamford Bridge, and a month later made his Scotland debut in a 3-2 victory over Walrs at Pittodrie.
Costs incurred by work to improve Tynecastle’s facilities and capacity were proving a financial millstone and in November 1935, the Hearts board indicated that certain players were available for transfer. McCulloch was by this stage one of five Scotland international players on the club’s books, having made his debut against Wales a year earlier, and an obvious transfer target. After numerous expressions of interest from English clubs, McCulloch and international team-mate Alex Massie were sold to offset the debt, McCulloch joining London side Brentford for a club record incoming fee of £6,000 in November 1935 having scored 56 goals in only 58 games.
McCulloch scored on his Football League debut in a 2-2 home draw against Leeds United the same month, and continued his prodigious scoring rate with the Bees and in October 1938 he transferred to Derby County for £9,500 after 91 goals in 123 appearances for The Bees. This included scoring 4 goals twice and 4 other hat-tricks. He also remained a Scotland regular, earning a further 6 caps during which he scored 3 goals, including 2 against Czechoslovakia in December 1937.
McCulloch’s time with Derby County was disrupted by the Second World War having scored 16 goals in 35 appearances, the War having began while he was at the peak of his abilities and curtailed his international career. During the conflict he “guested” for no less than six clubs, Falkirk, Brentford, Aldershot, Chelsea, Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic and Swansea Town. At the war’s conclusion he signed for Derby’s rivals Leicester City in August 1946 scoring twice in 4 appearances before finishing his career with non-league Bath City later the same year, and Irish side Waterford in 1949. While with Waterford McCulloch assisted with coaching and in 1951 he returned to Scotland as player-manager of Alloa Athletic, a position he held for one season.