Robert Carter was born in Hendon, County Durham, in 1881. He played football for Sunderland Royal Rovers and Selbourne, before joining Port Vale in 1904. An outside right, Carter scored 23 goals in 83 games for the club. He was only a small man and acquired the nickname "Toddler".
In 1907 Carter joined Stockport County. After scoring 8 goals in 27 games he signed for Fulham, who had just joined the Football League. According to Frank Garrick, the author of Raich Carter (2003): "Carter was a quick and enterprising winger who would shoot at every opportunity." He scored an amazing seven goals in ten games before joining Southampton in 1908.
Carter was plagued with injuries while playing with his new club. At the end of the 1909-10 season he suffered a serious knee injury. Carter did not play again until the 13th November when he turned out for Southampton reserves at Salisbury City. Soon afterwards he suffered a blow to the head from which he never fully recovered. Carter returned to Sunderland where he ran the Ocean Queen, with his wife, Clara.
Robert Carter died as a result of his head injury on on 14th March 1928. His son, Raich Carter, became one of the best inside-forwards in the Football League and played for Sunderland, Derby County and Hull City between 1932 and 1951. He also won 13 international cap for his country.