Joe Burnell made his name at Bristol City and, after playing for several other clubs, finished his Football League career with an eight-game stay at Exeter City. He then saw out his playing career at Bath City.
Starting his career with Bristol City, Joe became an integral part of the Ashton Gate club’s midfield between 1999 and 2004. His stirring displays were enough to earn him a long-term contract and a short spell as the club's captain. Then, after 160 first-team appearances, it was slightly-surprising when Joe left to join Wycombe Wanderers in July 2004. Always a regular first teamer, Joe moved on to Northampton Town and Oxford United where he played less frequently.
Released by Oxford before the end of the 2008/09 season Joe had a short end-of-season trial with Exeter City before signing in July 2009. He wasn’t to make his Grecians debut until his appearance as a substitute against MK Dons on 30 January 2010. Another seven league games followed before Joe was released at the end of the season.
Joe then had four seasons at Bath City before retiring in 2014 to work in property management. As of 2023 he was a director of a number of businesses in Bristol, some of which have also involved former Exeter players Tommy Doherty and Alex Russell.