Kilbirnie, Ayrshire born centre half Joe McGhie began his football career with Vale of Garnock Strollers from where he was signed by First Division club Sunderland in 1906, making his Football League debut against Aston Villa the same September. He made 30 appearances in all competitions during his debut season as Sunderland finished mid-table, but lost his place in January 1908 and joined Sheffield United in the 1908 close season after 46 appearances. However his spell at Bramall Lane was not a success and he played just 6 matches for The Blades that autumn before joining Southern League club Brighton & Hove Albion in the 1909 close season.
He helped Brighton win the 1909-10 Southern League Championship and also was a member of the Albion team that won the 1910 FA Charity Shield when they beat League Champions Aston Villa 1-0 at Stamford Bridge that September. In the five years that the Charity Shield was contested by the winners of the Football League and Southern League between 1908 and 1912, this was the only occasion on which the Southern League Champions prevailed. The victory remains Brighton and Hove Albion’s only national honour to date.
During his four seasons at The Goldstone Ground McGhie scored 3 goals in 133 appearances for The Seagulls and moved to Central League club Stalybridge Celtic in the summer of 1913. His career was then effectively ended by the outbreak of the First World War.