Thurnscoe, near Barnsley, Yorkshire born centre forward John Horton first came to attention when he played for Yorkshire League club Wombwell. In 1920-21 he scored a total of 40 goals, helping Wombwell to finish runners up in the Yorkshire League and gain admittance to the Midland League.
In May 1921, he was signed by Southampton, then playing in the Third Division (South). He scored regularly for the reserve team and made his Football League debut when he replaced Bill Rawlings for the match against Watford on 29th October 1921, which ended in a 2-0 victory for The Saints. Shortly after his debut, he broke a leg in a reserve team match at Bristol City, which ended his professional football career.