Kilwinning, Ayrshire born right back John McDonald started his football career with junior club Arden Villa in 1901 and then joined Scottish League Ayr in 1902. He cost First Division Blackburn Rovers £90 to secure his services in May 1903, but only he played one League match for them, at Stoke in October 1903, before he joined newly elected Second Division club Leeds City in July 1905. He played at right back as City played their inaugural Football League match against Bradford City at Valley Parade on 2nd September 1905 and went on to play the first twelve matches before David Murray arrived from Rangers in December, he then interchanged with Murray between the two full back berths and had made 31 League and Cup appearances by the end of the season.
He moved to Second Division club Grimsby Town in August 1906 and made 16 League appearances for The Mariners across the season, before leaving to join Queens Park Rangers in the 1907 close season. He won Southern League Championship medals in 1908 and 1912 with Rangers and appeared in both their 1908 FA Charity Shield matches against Football League Champions Manchester United, where they lost in a replay in August 1908 after a 1-1 draw in the first match, both at Stamford Bridge, and Blackburn Rovers, his former club, when they were beaten 2-1 at White Hart Lane in May 1912. He made 198 appearances for Queen’s Park Rangers before leaving to join Southern League club Mardy in 1913, his last recorded club. He died in 1915, although it is not certain whether this was as a result of the First World War.
One of several footballing brothers, the eldest Archie McDonald was a goalkeeper who played around the turn of the century for Ayr United and Partick Thistle. Hugh McDonald was also a goalkeeper, who played for Ayr, Brighton & Hove Albion, Oldham Athletic, Bradford Park Avenue, Fulham and Bristol Rovers, and who notably had three separate spells at Woolwich Arsenal, being the only player ever to have be signed three times by The Gunners.