Washington, County Durham born centre half Billy Silto began his football career with Washington in 1902, joining Hebburn Argyle in 1903 and from there signing for Second Division Barnsley in November 1904. He made his Football League debut against Leicester Fosse at the start of December, scoring in a 2-1 victory, but it was one of only 3 first team appearances he managed in his debut season at Oakwell. Similarly a fringe player in 1905-06, he broke into the first team on a regular basis from October 1906, and spent three seasons as a first team regular.
However, after injury caused a £1,000 transfer to Aston Villa to fall through, Silto joined Southern League Swindon Town during the summer of 1909, after being released by Barnsley, who suspected he was injury prone, having scored 3 times in 101 appearances for The Tykes. These fears proved unfounded, however, as he went on to score 5 goals in 235 appearances for Swindon over the following eleven years – and without the interruption of the First World War, it would have been far more.
A strong-tackling, energetic half-back with incredible stamina, Silto made his Swindon debut at Watford in September 1909 and was part of one of the most successful sides in the Town’s history, winning two Southern League Championship medals in 1911 and 1914, the Dubonnet Cup in Paris in 1910 (when Swindon beat Silto’s former club Barnsley 2-1), and also reaching the FA Cup semi-finals twice, firstly losing to eventual winners Newcastle United in 1910 and to Barnsley two years later. In the 1912 semi-final replay against Barnsley, Swindon were awarded a penalty, and, with regular penalty-taker Billy Tout out through injury, Silto stepped up to take the kick, eager to score against his former club. He was stopped in his tracks by captain Peter Chambers, who told Silto, “you don’t take penalties, Billy”, and handed the responsibility to a reluctant Archie Bown. Bown missed the kick, and Barnsley went on to win the tie 1-0.
Such were Silto’s performances in the Swindon team, that he was recognised as the understudy to the England half-back Billy Wedlock for many seasons, and though he joined up with the England squad on many occasions, the only appearances he made were on an unofficial tour of South Africa in 1910. He was the official non playing reserve in March 1912 when Scotland drew 1-1 with England at Hampden Park. During the First World War he guested for Arsenal, and after the War he continued playing for Swindon until his retirement in 1920, making his final appearance, ironically, away at Watford in March 1920, where he had made his Swindon debut 11 years previously.