In his schoolboy days Houghton had been on Sheffield United's books but nothing developed from it and he started work at Silverwood pit, playing for the colliery team before signing for Rotherham as an amateur. It was not long before he turned professional and during his time at Millmoor he built a reputation as a 'class act' playing with gusto, scoring regularly and becoming an established member of their first team. He gained a runners-up medal for the 'Millers' in the first-ever F.L. Cup Final, against Aston Villa..
His move to Hull concluded a lengthy and patient quest by Cliff Britton, who had admired Houghton's ability and saw his acquisition as another vital piece in the jigsaw that hopefully would see the Tigers become a First Division club. A member of the 'Famous Five' forward line of the 60's, he maintained his standing as an intelligent and stylish inside-forward with a powerful shot. Within the team he was the midfield general who bound the talents of his other forwards to form an effective attacking unit.
Whilst at Hull he formed a powerful left-flank alliance with Ian Butler - a former colleague at Rotherham - and Houghton's prompting and vision helped to give the Tigers a forward line that was the envy of many a club in a higher sphere. He remained a regular member of the side until his departure, in June 1973, to Scunthorpe. After one season with the 'Iron' he moved to Scarborough as player/coach and helped a powerful Scarborough team of the 70's to another Wembley appearance in the FA Trophy.