Rutherglen, Lanarkshire born inside right born John Bovill began his football career with Strathclyde from where he joined Glasgow Rangers in 1907, making his Scottish League debut against Partick Thistle in January 1908, and playing in a win over Third Lanark nine days later, before joining Blackburn Rovers later the same season, where he remained on the books until the summer of 1908 without making their first eleven. With a reputation for a fiery temprament, he joined Second Division Chesterfield Town in the autumn of 1908, where he played most of his matches at centre forward, scoring 5 goals in 20 appearances for The Spireites before they failed to be re-elected at the end of the season.
Bovill stayed with the club as it entered the Midland League, scoring 31 goals in 77 Midland League matches but returned to Football League action when he was signed by Liverpool in April 1911. Introduced into Liverpool’s first team that September, he scored 7 goals in 23 appearances until he lost his place in February 1912 and played only twice more before the end of the season, the club programme complaining that his main fault was “lack of deadliness in front of goal”, but his main strength being a “hard worker” and delivering “neat, low forward passes of value to his partners”. He stayed at Anfield for two further seasons but only added 4 further appearances to his 1911-12 total. In May 1914 Bovill transferred to Linfield, playing for them for two seasons in the Irish League before his retirement.