Born in Barry, Glamorgan, left half/left back Bob John played for Welsh League clubs Caerphilly in 1918 and Barry Town in 1919, before joining First Division club Arsenal, who signed him for a fee of £750 in January 1922. John made his Football League debut in a 2-1 defeat at home to Newcastle United on 28th October 1922, and quickly became a regular, succeeding Tom Whittaker at left half. His ability was such that soon after, he made his international debut for Wales against Scotland in a 2-0 defeat at Love Street, Paisley on 17rh March 1923; it was the first of fifteen Welsh international caps over the next thirteen years.
John was displaced from the Arsenal side in 1923-24 thanks to competition from Billy Blyth and Andrew Young, but after being switched to left back to cover for Andy Kennedy, he was a near ever present in 1924-25. Eventually however, John was switched back to left half, and this time he remained a first-team regular. A prodigious tackler and ball winner, and noted passer of the ball, John reached (but lost) the FA Cup Final with Arsenal in 1927, after a mistake by his compatriot and close friend Dan Lewis allowed Cardiff City a famous win. It was John who consoled Lewis after the final whistle, assuring him he would get another chance to a win a medal (although Lewis never did).
John finally won some silverware with an FA Cup win in 1930 when Arsenal beat Huddersfield Town in the Final at Wembley, followed by three League Championships in four seasons, in 1930-31, 1932-33 and 1933-34. John also scored Arsenal’s only goal of the 1932 FA Cup Final, in which Arsenal were controversially beaten by Newcastle United. By this time he was one of the senior members of the Arsenal squad, and mentored many of the club’s younger new arrivals.
Although John played for Arsenal until his retirement in 1938, for the final three years of his career he was mainly a reserve team player, having lost his place to Wilf Copping in 1934, and thus he missed out on a medal in The Gunners’ League title win of 1934-35. Nevertheless, he played 472 times for the club in total (scoring 15 goals), the most of any of Arsenal’s pre-World War Two players; he is tenth in the club’s all time appearances table.
On retiring in 1938, John joined the coaching staff at West Ham United. He later joined Torquay United as trainer, working under his former Highbury teammate Jack Butler, but when Butler left for Crystal Palace in May 1947, John followed, again as trainer. In 1949 he was appointed trainer-coach at Cardiff City, a position he held until March 1950 when he was appointed manager of Torquay United. He had an unsuccessful spell as manager at Plainmoor, winning only 7 of the 28 games he was in charge for and left his post in November 1950. He finished his football career as a scout for Cardiff City.