Prescot, Lancashire born inside or outside left John Barlow began his football career with hometown junior club Prescot in 1895 before joining First Division Everton in 1897, for whom he made his Football League debut at Bolton Wanderers in March 1898, playing once more before the season end. He made two further appearances for The Toffees in 1898-99 before joining Southern League Reading in the 1899 close season, where he spent two further seasons.
A move to FA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur in 1901 brought only 6 Southern League appearances in two seasons, however he was more successful in the United League where he scored 6 goals in 9 games for Spurs, but during the second half of the 1902-03 season he returned to Reading for a short spell before signing for Second Division Leicester Fosse in the 1903 close season.
At Filbert Street he enjoyed regular football, scoring 3 goals in 27 appearances during his single season stay with The Fossils, before returning to non league football in the summer of 1904 first with St Helens Recreation, then later in the year with Lancashire Combination club Oldham Athletic. He then played for Kippax Parish Church in 1905 before his retirement.