Govan, Glasgow born outside left John Campbell began his football career with Renton Union and played for Linthouse in 1892 before joining Partick Thistle in 1894. He had two seasons at Firhill, scoring 11 goals in 35 appearances before being bought by First Division Blackburn Rovers in the 1896 close season. He made his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion that September and missed only 5 matches over the next two seasons as Blackburn struggled in the lower reaches of the First Division, scoring 10 goals in 58 appearances before a move back to Scotland to join Glasgow Rangers in the summer of 1898.
In his first season at Rangers, as they moved towards winning the Scottish League Championship, he won international recognition, making his debut in a 6-0 win over Wales at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, in March 1899, Campbell netting a brace in the victory. He then scored another brace towards the month end in a 9-1 demolition of Ireland at Celtic Park, followed a week later by a further representative appearance when he played his only match for The Scottish League, scoring in a 4-1 defeat to The Football League at Celtic Park. The following week Campbell won his third Scotland cap in a 2-1 defeat to England at Villa Park, He won his final cap for Scotland in February 1901, scoring twice in an 11-0 win over Ireland at Celtic Park, but the following summer he was sold by Rangers to Southern League club West Ham United after 27 goals in 53 appearances, having won the Scottish League title three times during his four years at Ibrox.
He had a single season in East London, scoring once in 18 appearances for The Hammers, before a move to Scottish League Champions Hibernian in the 1903 close season, where he was a regular for three seasons at Easter Road, scoring 12 goals in 60 appearances. He then returned to England in the winter of 1905, joining Southern League club New Brompton (now Gillingham), where he scored 3 goals in 18 appearances over the rest of the 1905-06 season. He finally returned to Scotland in 1906 to re-join Partick Thistle, where he managed 8 goals in 25 appearances for The Jags in his final top flight season before joining Bo’ness and Dumbarton Harp in the 1907 close season ahead of his eventual retirement in 1910.