Barnsley, Yorkshire born centre half Arthur Woodruff had previously been a junior on the books of Huddersfield Town and Halifax Town before joining Bradford City in August 1934, spending two seasons on their books without making a first team appearance. In July 1936 he crossed The Pennines to join Second Division Burnley, already aged 23, making his Football League debut in the fifth game of the season against Plymouth Argyle that September and immediately establishing himself as their first choice centre half, remaining a near ever present for the rest of the campaign.
A large chunk of Woodruff’s career was taken away by the Second World War, by when he had just passed 100 games for The Clarets. He was 26 when War broke out, during which he continued to play war league football for Burnley, and by the time league football resumed in 1946 he had passed his 33rd birthday, an age when most professional footballers of the time had called it a day. But he returned to Turf Moor after the War and in their first League campaign Burnley were promoted to the First Division as Second Division runners up, Woodruff, by now playing at right back, missing only two games. Only four other members of the team had played pre-war football.
Woodruff made his First Division debut at 34 and again he was first choice, although a year later there was a threat was on the horizon with a challenger for his place. Having kicked off the 1948-49 season in the team he played only five times before he was replaced by Joe Loughran. He played in only 19 League games and he had to move back to his old position of centre half to get ten of those appearances. Loughran was in the team at the beginning of the 1949-50 season, but after three games Woodruff came back. He held his place for the remainder of the season, the next season too and was still first choice right back at the start of the 1951-52 season.
He played twelve of the first fifteen games before finding another competitor for the right back berth. This time it was Jock Aird who had been at Burnley for three seasons without having made a breakthrough. This time there was to be no way back for Woodruff who played only one more game for the club. Months after his previous appearance he was recalled for the second last game of the season at Chelsea where Burnley suffered a 4-1 defeat on 19th April 1952 exactly one week after his 39th birthday. That last game gave him the record as Burnley’s oldest ever outfield player with, at the time, goalkeeper Jerry Dawson being the only other player to have played for Burnley at an older age, a record which stood over 45 years until Gordon Cowans beat it. He was 39 years and 29 days when he played his last Burnley game in 1997 although his record has since been broken by Graham Alexander who played his last Burnley game at the age of 39 years and 209 days.
Woodruff’s time in football wasn’t over. He left Burnley having made 294 appearances and signed for Third Division (North) Workington in July 1952. He spent less than one year there as player/assistant manager and played eleven times. He then moved to Worcester City before going on to play for and manage Northwich Victoria in 1953, and also held coaching roles with Cliftonville and Tranmere Rovers before retiring from the game