Alf Common played for local teams in the North East of England before joining Sunderland. He was transferred to Sheffield United in 1901 (for 325) and won an FA Cup winners medal in 1902. He was first capped for England whilst with Sheffield. He returned to Sunderland in the summer of 1904 for a new record fee of 520. Early in 1905, Middlesbrough surprised the nation by paying the first four figure sum, exactly 1000, for Alf's services. Middlesbrough were struggling to avoid relegation, and Alf was one of a number of purchases they made in the hope of avoiding the drop. It worked!

Alf moved to Woolwich Arsenal in 1910, and then to Preston North End in 1912. He later ran a pub in Darlington, where he died on 3rd April, 1946.