Born in Whitby in 1951 David was an England School Boy International and several clubs were after his signature including Hull City and Manchester United but he opted to sign for Middlesbrough in 1968 after being out for a year with a back injury and made his debut for the club in the last game of the 1968/69 season, a 3-1 defeat away to Birmingham City on the 19th April 1968 coming on for another future Whitby Town player Stan Webb in the 27th minute. The following season Mills had to wait until April to make his full debut for the club with manager Stan Anderson picking him to face Swindon Town on the 14th April 1970 and he scored his first goal for the club too in a 3-0 away victory, going on to make another 4 substitute appearances scoring twice.
Mills finally established himself in the side in midway through season 1971/72 going on to make 27 (2 as a substitute) Second Division appearances scoring 8 goals, the following season he hit 5 league goals in 37 league appearances. Season 1973/74 saw Jack Charlton appointed Middlesbrough manager and they stormed to the Second Division Championship with David chipping in with 11 league goals in 39 ( 1 as a sub ) appearances, scoring the only goal in the away victory over Luton Town in March that secured promotion and he also caught the attention of the England selectors. In his first season in Division One Mills went on to score 8 goals in 36 league appearances as Middlesbrough finished the season in 7th place. He was Middlesbrough’s top goal scorer in season 1976/77 with 18 goals and also the following season with 16 goals. After asking for a transfer in December 1976 he finally moved on when manager John Neal sold him to Division one rivals West Bromwich Albion in January 1979 for a fee reported to be £500,000 to become Britain’s first half a million pound player. He scored on his debut for his new club but injuries and loss of form saw him loaned to Newcastle United in 1981 before signing for his old Middlesbrough manager Jack Charlton at Sheffield Wednesday at the beginning of the 1982/83 season but only stayed that season before signing for Newcastle United with his career coming full circle when Willie Maddren re-signed him for the Boro in June 1984 on a free transfer, making his second debut for the club in a 1-0 away defeat to Portsmouth on the 25th August 1984. He finished the season as Middlesbrough’s top goal scorer with 14 goals to help the side avoid relegation but the following season he was out injured and didn’t play as the side were relegated to Division Three and he was released at the end of the season by Maddren’s successor Bruce Rioch. Mills made a total of 398 appearances (20 as a substitute) for Middlesbrough over two spells, scoring 111 goals for the club.
At the start of the following season he joined Third Division Darlington but had also got a full time job outside of football and in December 1986 he went part time and joined Whitby Town who were managed by his former Middlesbrough team mate Peter Creamer. Mills made his Whitby Town debut in a 2-0 away defeat at Easington Colliery on the 20th December 1986, his 1st goal’s for the club came in a 3-1 victory over Ryhope CA at the Turnbull Ground where he scored twice on the 7th February 1987, he also scored again at Ayresome Park, hitting Whitby’s first goal in a 3-2 North Riding Senior Cup defeat to Middlesbrough Reserves on the 24th February 1987. He went on to make 15 appearances (14 league, 1 North Riding Senior Cup) that season scoring 7 goals. At the start of the following season 1987/88 David was appointed commercial manger and player coach of the club as manager Creamer built a young side around him, Mills mainly playing at left back. He scored the first of his 5 goals that season for Whitby in a 4-1 away victory over Shildon on Saturday 12th September 1987 in front of just 87 spectators. On the 19th December 1987 David broke his ankle after 36 minutes in a 1st round FA Trophy tie at Witton Albion as Whitby fell to a 2-1 defeat, this being the last competitive game David played for Whitby, having made 26 (+ 1 as a sub) appearances, scoring 5 times that season. Worse was to follow on the 9th January 1988, when travelling home from watching Whitby’s 6-1 away defeat at Whitley Bay he was seriously injured in a road accident inside the Tyne Tunnel in which claimed the life of his father Jonathan who was a passenger in the car along with players Paul Quantrill who suffered a dislocated hip and broken elbow and Andrew Parkes who suffered facial injuries. His former manager at West Bromwich Albion Ron Atkinson brought his full 1st team squad to the Turnbull Ground in a benefit match for David on Tuesday 15th March 1988 a game which West Brom won 8-0. After recovering David made one final appearance for Whitby coming on for the last ten minutes of a pre-season friendly against Newcastle United on Saturday 13th August 1988, a 5-1 victory for United’s 1st team.
David did carry on playing for Dorman Long in the local over 35’s league and went on to become assistant chief scout at Newcastle United before returning to Middlesbrough to scout for them and has since worked with Steve Walsh at Hull City and Leicester City.
In total David made 42 (1 as a sub) appearances for Whitby Town scoring 12 goals.