Hateley started his career with Notts County, where he first established himself as a prolific goalscorer, especially through his heading ability, and scored 77 league goals in 131 matches. The club won promotion to the Third Division in 1960-61, while Hateley's goals earned him a move to County's Midlands rivals Aston Villa in 1963. Hateley continued his prolific scoring record at Villa, once scoring four second-half goals as Villa came from 5-1 down to draw 5-5 with Tottenham Hotspur, and his 86 goals in less than 150 games played a significant part in saving the club from relegation to the Second Division. In October 1966 Chelsea's offer of £100,000 for Hateley was accepted and he moved to West London. Such was his importance to Villa, they were relegated at the end of the 1966-67 season.
The £100,000 fee Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty paid for Hateley was a club record and he arrived as a replacement for recent broken leg victim, Peter Osgood. However, Chelsea's game had previously been based around quick passing and movement, while Hateley had thrived on crosses and long balls, meaning the team's style had to be adapted to accommodate him. Though his aerial ability was one of the best in his era, Hateley's technical ability was more lacking - Docherty once commented that Hateley's passes ought to be labelled "to whom it may concern" - and he struggled at the club. He scored six league goals during the season, and the highlight of his time at Chelsea came in the FA Cup semi-final against Leeds United when he headed in the winning goal at Villa Park. He also played in Chelsea's 2-1 final loss to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
Having scored a total of nine goals in 33 appearances, in June 1967 Hateley was sold to Bill Shankly's Liverpool, who broke his own club's record in paying £96,000 for him. He scored 28 goals for Liverpool in the 1967-68 season, including hat-tricks against Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest, but once again Hateley's style didn't suit his team's and he moved on after a year, this time to Coventry City. After a season at Coventry he was sold to Birmingham City and then returned to his first club, Notts County, where he rediscovered his scoring touch and led them to the Fourth Division title in 1970-71. After a brief stint at Oldham Athetic, he retired from the game, having scored almost 250 career goals. He was never capped for England.