West Butsfield, County Durham born centre half Joe Wilson began his football career playing for Crook Town and Annfield Plain in 1926, and played for Stanley United in 1927, from whom he signed for First Division Champions Newcastle United for £50 in December 1927, making his Football League debut, and only appearance for The Toon, in a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in December 1929. He joined Southend United for £500 in August 1930 and was a key part of their line up during five seasons with The Shrimpers, where he was an ever present in 1931-32 as the club finished third in the League.
It was while at The Kursaal that he got to play at Wembley Stadium in unusual circumstances. Their away fixture at Clapton Orient’s Lea Bridge Road stadium was moved to Wembley Stadium as Orient’s ground had been closed following a bad injury to a Torquay United player resulting from the close proximity of the pitch barrier to the playing surface. While remedial work was carried out the East Londoners were forced to hire the Empire Stadium in order to stage two home games. The first resulted in an easy 3-0 win over Brentford in front of a healthy 8,000 plus crowd. However, the visit of Southend United attracted a crowd of only 1,916 (which must have looked very odd in vast stadium with a then capacity of 100,000) and Wilson played in a 3-1 defeat by Clapton Orient, albeit in a Third Division (South) fixture on 6th December 1930.
After 4 goals in 175 appearances for Southend he was signed by First Division Brentford in July 1935, where he helped Brentford to three successive top six finishes before he joined Reading in August 1939 after 3 goals in 63 appearances for The Bees. However after 3 matches for Reading at the start of the 1939-40 season, the outbreak of the Second World War forced the abandonment of peacetime football that September.
After the Second World War, already 34 years old, Wilson joined Second Division Barnsley in early 1946, playing for them in both their 1946 FA Cup campaign and in the first post war League season, 1946-47. He scored once in 28 appearances for The Tykes before joining non league Blyth Spartans in the summer of 1947, where he became player-manager. He later managed North Eastern League side Consett.
Wilson’s son Carl also became a professional footballer and played for Newcastle United, Gateshead, Doncaster Rovers, Millwall, Sparta Rotterdam and Schwarz-Weiss Essen from the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s.