He played for a number of clubs: Clydebank, Hamilton Accies, St. Mirren, Bolton on loan, Djurgårdens IF, Dumbarton, Dundee, and Hibs. He also played for non-league clubs Pollok, Tarff Rovers and Kirkintilloch Rob Roy.
It is as a player with Partick Thistle that he will be best remembered. He played for the club on a few different occasions and is considered something of a cult hero at Firhill. Chic was raised in the North of Glasgow, a gifted footballer, Chic was tipped for greatness. However the early part of his career was chequered by poor discipline which gave him the reputation as a hot head. This scared many clubs away from his obvious talent.
Chic had a voracious appetite for trouble. During a training session in Glasgow's Ruchill Park, he was attacked by two locals brandishing samurai swords. Charnley responded by leading his team-mates in an attack on the two men.
He was brought up a supporter of Celtic. He did have a trial for Celtic playing one game for them in a friendly against Manchester Utd at Old Trafford. Many rated him as the best player in the game and it was rumoured that he had done enough to win a contract. However, Celtic's manager Lou Macari was sacked not long after this friendly game and rumours of a dream move to Celtic came to nothing.
Charnley was an inconsistent performer with displays ranging from poor to outstanding. At many points in his career it seemed that top-flight football was beyond him, he was freed by Partick Thistle when the Maryhill club was in the Premier Division.
His final season as a player was with Partick Thistle in the Premier League during the 2002-03 season. Chic was approaching the age of 40, so appearances were few and far between. His final match was perhaps fittingly against Hibs at Easter Road. He came on as a substitute in a 3-2 victory for Thistle.
Chic returned to Firhill during the 2006/2007 pre-season for ex team-mate Kenny Arthur's testimonial match versus a Celtic XI. With the game in injury time and Thistle losing 2-1 Chic rifled home a 25 yard strike to draw level. Since this match, Chic spent time training at Firhill and is expected to return for ex manager and Thistle hero John Lambie's testimonial in January 2007. The opposition is expected to be provided by Glasgow Rangers FC.
Many Thistle supporters rate him the best player their club has had.
He now owns a pub called 'The Thistle' in Maryhill Road, Glasgow.