Kingswinford, Staffordshire born winger David Stokes started his football career with Kingswinford Albion in 1896 and played for Wordsley Olympic in 1897, Halesowen in 1898 and Brierley Hill Alliance in 1899 before spending 1900-01 on the books of Aston Villa, without making their first team. He returned to Brierley Hill Alliance from where he signed for First Division Bolton Wanderers, making his Football League debut at Wolverhampton Wanderers in February 1902. He played 16 times the following season as Bolton were relegated to the Second Division, where he established himself as a regular member of the first team in 1903-04, and he was part of Bolton’s 1904 FA Cup Final team that lost 1-0 to Manchester City at The Crystal Palace.
He helped Bolton to promotion in 1905 as Second Division runners up, and became the club captain around that time. While they were again relegated in 1908 and 1910, they bounced back with promotions in 1909 and 1911, the former as Second Division Champions. Remarkably, Stokes played both sides of the First World War for Bolton, making his final appearance in April 1920, aged 42. In total he scored 46 goals in 420 appearances for The Trotters, before re-joining non league Brierley Hill Alliance in 1920. He returned to Football League action with Wolverhampton Wanderers later in 1920, playing 7 times for Wolves between November of that year and April 1921, before his retirement from the game.