The nephew of the great Celtic player Patsy Gallacher, Clydebank, Dunbartonshire born inside left John Divers started with junior clubs Linwood St Conval’s in 1929 and Rothesay Royal Victoria in 1930, and joined Glasgow Celtic in December 1932 from Renfrew Juniors whom he’d joined in 1931. After becoming a reserve team regular he made his Scottish League debut when Celtic defeated Clyde 2-1 at Parkhead on 2nd April 1934. Despite this it took Divers a considerable time to establish himself as a first team regular.
Indeed his, at times, seemingly disinterested performances in the reserves had led to him being placed on the transfer list before the inside left eventually raised his game to become a near permanent and influential fixture in the side which won the League Championship in 1937-38.
Physically strong and with a great ability to cut inside and make good use of a thunderous shot, Divers, on his game, was a hugely impressive player. So much so that he was capped by Scotland against Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast in October 1938.
Divers’ real asset on the football field was a superb awareness of what was going on around him and a scheming mind which could plot ways through the toughest of defences. He was also the creative mastermind behind the Celtic victory in the Empire Exhibition Trophy of 1938, when Celtic beat Everton 1-0 in the Final. He was given the compliment that “[he] played the kind of football you can’t buy with money”.
Unfortunately the Second World War broke out in September 1939 just as Divers was approaching the peak of his powers. Divers continued to play for The Bhoys during the regional competitions of the war years but would turn up at Celtic Park in overalls having come straight from a hard shift in his job at the shipyards. The war years were a poor time for Celtic and difficult for Divers. He moved to Morton on loan for a period (likely easier for him due to work) but returned after the loan to Celtic stronger from his “intensive training” in his shipyard work and moved to the role of left back.
Team-mate Joe McLaughlin called him:
“…one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever met… the brains of the Celtic team… I never met a man who could lay a pass on like Johnny… he played inside-forward but operated as a fourth half-back passing the ammo, and how he passed it”.
He was eventually released by Celtic in 1945 and joined Morton in 1946. As a Bhoy he had made 197 competitive appearances in senior matches and scored 92 goals. At Morton, his side beat Celtic 4-0 in Jan 1948 with Divers scoring the opening goal. Morton team-mate (and ex-Celt) Alex Millar said: “The ease with which he finds the open space makes defensive work a pleasure”.
He later moved to Oldham Athletic as a trialist playing once in the Football League against Mansfield Town in August 1947 before returning to Morton, and became their player-coach, although he didn’t play in their 1948 Scottish Cup Final defeat to Rangers. He was also Chairman of the Players Union in 1947 and later was player-manager for Portadown in Northern Ireland in September 1950.
His son John junior was also a professional player, playing with Celtic and Partick Thistle.