Joseph Walmsley played football for Blackburn Olympic. Later he became a local cotton mill manager.
Blackburn Rovers had experienced a great deal of success under Tom Mitchell, Blackburn's club secretary/manager. However, in October, 1896, Mitchell resigned. Joseph Walmsley was appointed to replace Mitchell. It seemed Blackburn missed Mitchell as they slumped to 14th place in the First Division of the Football League in the 1896-97 season.
In the 1897-98 season Blackburn Rovers finished second from bottom. Only a decision to increase the size of the First Division of the Football League to 18 clubs saved Blackburn from relegation. The following season saw a revival with the team finishing in a respectable 6th place.
Blackburn found itself in another relegation struggle in the 1899-1900 season. The club had to win one of its last two games against Notts County and Preston North End in order to avoid the drop to the Second Division. Blackburn lost to Preston but managed to beat Notts County 2-0.
The Blackburn Times criticized the performance of the Blackburn team arguing: "There can be no such thing as standing still in the football world as in many other things, and as the Rovers have not made headway they must have been going backwards. Alas, this is only too plain. The rovers of today are not the Rovers of yore, when their fame spread far and wide".
The following season, two of Blackburn's most experienced players, George Anderson and Tom Brandon, left the club. Tom Booth, an English international, was sold to Everton and Tommy Briercliffe moved to Stalybridge Celtic. Considering the loss of these good players, Blackburn did well to finish in 9th place. Blackburn also won the Lancashire Cup beating Burnley 4-0 in the final.
The 1901-02 season saw a major improvement in the form of Blackburn Rovers. For a while it looked like they would win the First Division title. However, Sunderland beat them 1-0 at Ewood Park and this started a poor run that left them in fourth place by the end of the season. Three of Blackburn's young stars, Fred Blackburn, Kelly Houlker and Bob Crompton, won international caps playing for England that season.
The ambition of the club was questioned when one of the team's English internationals, Kelly Houlker, was allowed to sign for Portsmouth in the Southern League. He was replaced by Lionel Watson, who had been purchased from Manchester City.
Bob Crompton had emerged as a superb talent. Despite only being 21 years old, he had become a commanding figure in the Blackburn defence and his leadership qualities resulted in him being appointed club captain. In 1902 Crompton won his first international cap for England. Playing at right-back he held his place in the team for the next 12 years. At the age of 24 he was appointed as England's captain.
Blackburn struggled again in the 1902-03 season. Joseph Walmsley, Blackburn's manager, desperately needed someone to score goals and in March, 1903, persuaded Adam Bowman from Everton to join the club.
On Easter Monday, Blackburn Rovers had to visit Bowman's former club. Blackburn surprisingly beat Everton 3-0 with Adam Bowman scoring two of the goals. Four days later, Bowman scored another two goals in a 3-1 victory over Newcastle United. These two results meant that Grimsby Town, rather than Blackburn was relegated from the First Division of the Football League.
Rumours began to circulate that Blackburn Rovers had bribed Everton players to lose the game. Officials at Grimsby lodged an official protest and the Football Association decided to hold an inquiry into the game. A report by the FA claimed that there was evidence that Joseph Walmsley had tried to arrange a win for Blackburn Rovers. However, they believed that Everton players had not taking any bribes and that the final league placings should remain unaltered. Walmsley was immediately banned from having any further involvement with football.
In November 1903 Joseph Walmsley took over the licence of the Florence Hotel in Blackburn.