Kimberworth, Rotherham, Yorkshire born left back Ernest Milton played youth football with Parkgate Christ Church, and started his playing career, while working as a miner, with Kilnhurst Town. He was with Kilnhurst at the outbreak of the First World War and was soon recommended to First Division Sheffield United. Having impressed in a trial, Milton joined United as an amateur in 1917, aged 20. He played regularly during the War, and occasionally appeared as a guest player for Birmingham, Rotherham County and Barnsley. With the War over Milton was offered a professional contract with Sheffield United, but despite playing the first game of the 1918-19 season he left United claiming he had ‘signed by misinterpretation’.
After a spell training with various clubs he wrote to United in March 1919, offering his services and hoping there would be ‘no ill-will’ if he returned. United agreed and Milton replaced pre-war full back Jack English, who had elected not to return to the club, making his Football League debut at Manchester City in August 1919. Cementing his place in the first team and missing only two matches in 1919-20, Milton was a fixture for the next four years, missing only one match in the 1923-24 season when The Blades finished fifth in the League Championship.
Despite this he was not widely appreciated and the local media suggested that he had ‘not lived up to his early promise’. When United signed Len Birks in October 1924 it looked like Milton’s tenure was drawing to a close but he regained his place in the side and played in The Blades’ victorious 1925 FA Cup Final team when they beat Cardiff City with a single Fred Tunstall goal at Wembley. The following season was more difficult however, and a mixture of a long standing ankle injury, his lack of pace and the introduction of the new offside rule meant that he only played twelve more times and was finally released in May 1927 after 4 goals in 220 appearances.
Milton was the younger brother of Barnsley, Sunderland and Swindon Town player Albert Milton, who was killed in the First World War, and Coventry City and Gillingham’s Alf Milton.