Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham born centre or inside forward Tom Ruddy played his early football with Stockton Shamrocks from 1920. In October 1924 he joined Third Division (North) Darlington, making his Football League debut at New Brighton in May 1925. Darlington were promoted at the end of the season as Champions and Ruddy became a professional in the summer of 1925.
Described as a “quick forward, with a hard shot”, Ruddy spent further three seasons with Darlington and he finished as the club’s top scorer in 1926-27 with 26 goals, all but one coming in the League, although his goals couldn’t save Darlington from relegation. He bagged a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Wolves in April 1927 and 5 goals in an 8-2 demolition of South Shields later the same month as they attempted to avoid the drop. On 7th January 1928, he and Harry Lees both scored hat-tricks in a 9-2 victory over Lincoln City; this was Darlington’s record victory in a Football League match, and he also scored a Cup hat-trick in a win over Chesterfield the same season.
After scoring 43 goals in 73 appearances, Ruddy moved to First Division Derby County in May 1928 where he was mainly a fringe player in their successful line ups of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, such that in 3½ years at The Baseball Ground he made only 22 League appearances, scoring 9 goals, including two in a 6-1 defeat of Manchester United on 30 March 1929. He then dropped down to the Second Division with Chesterfield in December 1931, scoring 9 times in 20 appearances for The Spireites during the remainder of the season, before moving to the south coast to join another Second Division club, Southampton in September 1932.
Ruddy had been recommended to The Saints by Dick Neal who had played alongside him briefly at Derby County. Like Neal, his transfer fee was partially met by the Saints’ Supporters Club.
Ruddy made his debut on 24th December 1932, when he took the place of Herbert Coates at inside left against Preston North End. Coates returned for the next match, and it was not until February that Ruddy, now at inside right was able to become a settled member of the side. In the next season, Ruddy played the first six matches at inside left, before losing out to Coates. Ruddy was recalled to the side for the last time in November when he made three appearances before being dropped in favour of Arthur Holt.
Ruddy was released from his contract in the 1934 close season after 3 goals in 25 appearances and returned to the north east, playing in the North Eastern League with Spennymoor United for a season. He then finished his career in the Irish League, joining Linfield in 1935.