In the 1924–25 season he made his debut for Doncaster Rovers and was to go on and play 439 senior games for them (scoring 32 goals) in a playing career that was to last until the 1935–36 season. He holds the record for the most Football League appearances made for Doncaster. In 1936 he was appointed manager at Doncaster, a position he held until the war.
In July 1951, 11 years after leaving Doncaster, Emery was appointed as Carlisle United manager, replacing future Liverpool manager Bill Shankly who left Carlisle to join Grimsby Town. In a seven-year spell as Carlisle manager Emery never was able inspire the Brunton Park faithful like his predecessor did, but he was able to the keep the club in a stable mid-table position in the Third Division North despite being handicapped by limited resources. He left the club in April 1958.
His brother Bob and nephew Tony were also footballers.