After spending time as a schoolboy on the books of Sheffield United F.C. Houghton was released without turning professional and went to work as a miner in Silverwood Colliery, playing football for their amateur side alongside his work. He then signed for Rotherham United (initially as an amateur before going full-time) and established himself as a regular for the club, gaining a runner-up medal in the inaugural Football League Cup. He was signed for Hull City A.F.C. early in the 1964–65 season by manager Cliff Britton and became the link between City's defence and the attacking force of the mid to late sixties – Ken Wagstaff, Chris Chilton and Butler. Arguably the 1965–66 season was the most successful and vibrant season that Hull City fans have ever known and Ken Houghton was very much part of this era. He was well known for his pinpoint passes and possessed a blistering right footed shot.