Ryhope, Sunderland born wing half Joe Nicholson joined Second Division Clapton Orient in 1919 from Ryhope Colliery making his Football League debut that September at Fulham. He scored 4 goals in 147 matches for Clapton Orient before transferring to First Division Cardiff City in 1924, where he soon established himself in the first eleven and played in their 1925 losing FA Cup Final team, narrowly beaten at Wembley 1-0 by Sheffield United, having scored one of the goals that got them there in the FA Cup semi final 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Meadow Lane.
He scored an impressive 14 goals in 55 games for Cardiff and after two seasons in Wales he joined Aston Villa in the summer of 1926. However he played only one match for Aston Villa, a 4-0 defeat at Newcastle United on the opening day of the 1926-27 season, before joining non league Bangor City in 1927. He subsequently played for Spennymoor United in 1928.