Glasgow born left winger John Crawford Gillies began his football career with Shawfield Juniors before joining Ayr United in 1936. His spell at Ayr was brief but he made an instant impact when unveiled in the Clyde team at the beginning of the 1936-37 season. At the time, tipping him as a future potential international player, one commentor said of him “A ‘bag of tricks’ on the ball, John can finish off his clever work with a powerful shot”. He played for Clyde until the outbreak of the Second World War and gained Scottish League honours when he played against The American Soccer League in June 1939, scoring in a 4-2 victory.
He then joined St Mirren but the Second World War interrupted his career, and after the War he signed for First Division Brentford in May 1946, making his Football League debut at Arsenal that October. He made 5 appearances for The Bees before the end of November before returning to Scotland to join Morton the following month, where he finished his career.