Hamilton, Lanarkshire born inside left John Bell began his football career with Beith in 1927 and played for Ayr United in 1928 before returning to Beith in 1929. He was signed by Queen of the South in 1932. Scoring 14 goals in his first season at Queens, Bell was part of the promotion winning Queen of the South side who gained their first promotion to the First Division in Scotland, finishing as runners up to Hibernian for the 1932-33 season. Bell then scored the first ever top flight goal for the Dumfries club when he scored the first goal of Queens’ first First Division game. Lining up beside Willie Savage and Willie Ferguson against Celtic at Palmerston Park, Bell scored in the third minute when Kennaway in Celtic goal could only parry a shot by Wales. Bell scored a second goal, three minutes into the second half which proved the winner in a 3-2 victory.
After scoring 9 goals in the new season Bell joined Second Division Preston North End in late December 1933 for an undisclosed fee believed to be around £1,500, surpassing the previous Queen’s record transfer fee received for Billy Halliday. He made his Football League debut against Brentford on Boxing Day, scoring the first goal in the 4th minute in a 3-2 Preston victory. He scored 3 more goals in 14 appearances as Preston won promotion to the First Division finishing Second Division runners up. However the following season he didn’t get into the Preston team until late October and played nearly as many games in their FA Cup run as in the League, playing in all 6 FA Cup ties as they were beaten 1-0 by eventual finalists West Bromwich Albion in the quarter final at The Hawthorns.
After 5 goals in 27 appearances for The Lilywhites he returned to Queen of the South in the summer of 1935, before rejoining Beith in 1936. He then joined Albion Rovers in 1937 but his career was effectively ended by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.