Willie's route to a football career was via Ardrossan Winton Rovers and St Mirren. In 1954 he was transferred to Leicester City and stayed there until he was signed by Jock Stein in September 1960 for £1,800. Willie made 106 appearances for the Pars, scoring 5 goals. He made his first team debut in September 1960, against Stirling Albion in a Penman Cup tie.
Signed as a replacement for Harry Colville, Willie played in both the right and left full back positions, and in the home Inter City Fairs Cup tie against Everton, Jock Stein deployed Willie in the sweepers role. This was possibly the first time that a sweeper had been used in British football.
Whilst at East End Park, Willie was awarded three of the thirty Northern Ireland caps he gained during his career.
As a result of recurring injuries, he gave up playing at the end of season 63/64, and when Jock Stein left Dunfermline to manage Hibs, Willie Cunningham was seen as his natural successor. He was manager for three years until 1967, leading the club to their most successful season in 1964/1965, when Dunfermline reached the Scottish Cup final, the Quarter Final of the League Cup and finished third in Division One, having missed out on the championship by just one point.
Willie played in 7 of the 8 1961 cup ties, missing out on the Quarter Final against Alloa.
Manager of Dunfermline Athletic after Jock Stein; he also managed Falkirk and had the distinction of being offered the Scottish International team manager's post. One time manager of Intersport in Dunfermline Willie still lives in Dunfermline but seems to take a bigger interest in rugby and cricket these days.