Murton, County Durham born centre half John Gurkin began his football career with Dean Bank Villa in 1919 and played for South Hetton Royal Rovers in 1920 before signing for Second Division West Ham United in January 1921, making his Football League debut in a 2-0 defeat at Stoke in August 1921, his only appearance for The Hammers. He joined Third Division (South) club Norwich City in June 1922 and made 10 appearances for The Canaries over the course of the 1922-23 season before joining non league Stalybridge Celtic in the 1923 close season.
He returned to north east football with Spennymoor United later the same year, and the following summer he returned to Football League action when he signed for Durham City in August 1924. He was a model of consistency at Holiday Park, remaining near ever present after his debut for the next four seasons, missing only three matches between 1925 and 1928, scoring 3 goals in 166 appearances for Durham City as they struggled in the lower reaches of the Third Division (North), for whom he is their record League appearance holder.
When they lost their League status in May 1928, he re-joined Stalybridge Celtic. In 1929 he returned to the Football League joining Exeter City, and made two first team appearances for The Grecians at either end of the 1929-30 season before joining non league Hyde United in the summer of 1930. After two years in Lancashire he retuened to the north east, joining Jarrow in 1932 and finishing his career with Murton Colliery Welfare whom he joined in 1933.