Sunderland born goalkeeper Fred Mearns played junior football for junior club Selbourne in 1899 before joining hometown First Division club Sunderland, for whom he made his Football League debut against Aston Villa in October 1901, playing twice that season as understudy to the legendary Ned Doig. He moved to Southern League Kettering in 1902 and from there to Tottenham Hotspur a year later, where he made 14 appearances for the club during 1903-04 including 5 in the Southern League. He then returned to the Football League with Bradford City making 23 appearances for The Bantams during their second campaign as a Second Division club. In 1905 he drifted into non league football with spells at Southern League Division Two side Grays United as well as Southern United and Barrow, before returning to the Football League with Bury, where he had 2 seasons as understudy to James Raeside, making 11 appearances for The Shakers.
Mearns joined Hartlepool United in 1908 for their inaugural season in the North Eastern League where they came fourth, before joining Second Division Barnsley in the summer of 1909. Although he only played 12 League matches against Jack Cooper’s 26, he played in 7 of the 9 FA Cup ties that took Barnsley all the way to the FA Cup Final against mighty Newcastle United at The Crystal Palace. That matched finished 1-1, in front of nearly 78,000, however Barnsley lost 2-0 in the replay at Goodison Park 5 days later. Mearns started the new season as Barnsley’s first choice but lost his place in November and joined Leicester Fosse in February 1911 after 33 appearances for The Tykes. He had 2 years at Filbert Street making 70 appearances for The Fossils, before returning to the north east to join non league Newcastle City in 1913, subsequently playing for West Stanley later the same year and, after the First World War, Sunderland West End in 1919.
Mearns later worked as a trainer for Durham City.