Mansfield, Nottinghamshire born outside right John Chadburn began his football career with Mansfield Unitarians in 1891 and played for Mansfield Greenhalgh’s in 1892 before joining Second Division Lincoln City in July 1893, making his Football League debut against Rotherham Town the same September. He had a single season at Sincil Bank, scoring 9 goals in 27 appearances for The Imps, before joining Notts County in September 1894.
He scored 6 goals as The Magpies finished second in the Second Division in 1894-95 but lost out in the Test match series, and was a near ever present the next season, missing only one game, but lost his place in September 1896, scoring twice in only 4 appearances during their Second Division Championship season of 1896-97, joining Wolverhampton Wanderers in June 1897 after 15 goals in 53 appearances. However he was a fringe player at Molineux, scoring once in 12 appearances over the following two and a half seasons for Wolves before transferring to local rivals West Bromwich Albion in January 1900.
Described as a real character in the dressing room and on the training ground, but with a volatile temper on the pitch, Chadburn made his name as a first team regular with The Baggies, despite their relegation from the First Division in the 1900-01 season, playing in the first game at The Hawthorns against Derby County in September 1900, but he only played 5 times as Albion won the Second Division Championship at the first time of asking and 3 times as they finished seventh in the top flight in his last season there, when he helped their reserves win the Birmingham & District League. Chadburn featured for Albion as right back and right wing and moved to Liverpool in May 1903 after 4 goals in 48 appearances.
Chadburn made just two First Division appearances for Liverpool, playing at right back in the opening two matches of the 1903-04 season. Both games ended in defeat as well as the next three in a miserable start to the season that ended in relegation. Chadburn was one of four different players to feature at right back in the opening ten League fixtures before a fifth, Alfred West, came into the side on 7th November 1903 and held on to his place for the rest of the season.
He had brief spells with Barnsley and in the Southern League with Reading before joining Plymouth Argyle in March 1904 towards the end of the club’s first professional season. Despite being an adaptable utility player he could not hold down a place in the first team and moved to Swindon Town in August 1906 after a single goal in 15 appearances for The Pilgrims. However he didn’t make the first team at Swindon and returned to his home town, joining Mansfield Mechanics (later to become Mansfield Town) in July 1907 before playing finally for Woodhouse Rangers in 1908 ahead of his eventual retirement.