Todmorden, Yorkshire born left half Jack Mitton was first recorded as playing football as a youth with Portsmouth Rovers of the Lancashire Combination, before spells with Padiham and Brierfield before the First World War. He joined First Division club Burnley as a trainee in 1914 but failed to break into the first team before the outbreak of the First World War. During the War, he made guest appearances for Bury, before joining Exeter City, then in the Southern League in June 1919, making his debut in a 1-1 draw at Southampton in August 1919.
He remained with Exeter City for the early part of their inaugural season in the Football League Third Division, making his debut in their opening League fixture against Brentford in August 1920, before being signed by First Division club Sunderland in October 1920 after 11 League appearances for Exeter City that season in addition to his Southern League outings. In the match report on Wednesday October 20th there was a piece marked
“John Mitton: An Appreciation.
John Mitton, Exeter City’s brilliant left half back, was transferred to Sunderland at the conclusion of the Southend match. He was one of the Exeter club’s ever-presents last season, and his magnificent displays in the red and white stripes attracted a great deal of attention.
It is an open secret that the Grecians received several 4-figure offers for his transfer in the course of the winter, and not many Exonians then expected to see him in the ranks of the club again this season. He was induced to remain, however, until now, when having acquainted with the facts, he expressed his desire for change.
The amount of the transfer fee has not been disclosed, but that it is very high one goes without saying, and the general opinion is that £2000 has changed hands. Mitton is every inch a footballer, and tip-top men are not to be had for the asking, in present day football.
Mr S. H. Thomas, the Exeter City secretary, has stated that the player was informed of the overtures made in regard to him during last season, as they occurred, and the decision had been left entirely with him, as the club felt they should not stand in the way of any player who wished to better himself. Representatives of the Sunderland came down to Exeter yesterday, watched Mitton’s play in the match against Southend, and in the evening made a club a definite offer for his transfer. It was a considerable amount, and Mitton, on being informed of what had occurred, expressed his wish to throw in his lot with the First Division club.
The directors, therefore, decided to accept the offer for the transfer was completed.
Mitton, who is 24 years of age, is a native of Cornholme, near Todmorden, Lancashire. He stands 5ft 11 ins, in his socks and weighs 12 stone. Prior to being signed on for Exeter by Mr Chadwick he assisted Padiham, Burnley and Bury. Known to his friends and admirers as Snowball on account of the colours of his “thatch” he will be much missed, but all followers of Exeter City will wish this popular and highly esteemed player the very best of luck in his new exalted sphere”
He was immediately drafted into the Sunderland first team, making his debut at right-half as replacement for Robert Coverdale in a 2-2 draw at Bradford City on 23 October 1920. He retained his place for the rest of the season, at the end of which Sunderland finished twelfth in the table. In addition to playing at left half, he also appeared at right half and centre forward earlier in his Sunderland career.
At the start of the 1921-22 season, Mitton lost his place to Joe Kasher before being recalled to the side as a centre-forward in October, replacing Paul Stannard. Mitton continued at centre-forward until mid-January when Harry Brown took over, with Mitton replacing Kasher at centre-half. During his time up front, Mitton had a run of four matches in December 1921 when he scored seven goals, including a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Christmas Eve.
Mitton remained at Roker Park for two more seasons, with his final first team appearance coming in November 1923, before dropping down to the Second Division in May 1924 when he joined Wolverhampton Wanderers after 8 goals in 81 appearances. At Molineux, Mitton was a virtual ever-present for three seasons, becoming club captain before a transfer to Southampton in June 1927 after 6 goals in 107 appearances.
Mitton joined The Saints for a fee of £150 and was used as cover for the three half-back positions. His only significant run in the first team came in September/October 1927, when he replaced Stan Woodhouse at left-back for six matches. After two further appearances late in the season, totalling 8 for The Saints, Mitton retired in the summer of 1928.
Whilst at Exeter City, Mitton joined Somerset County Cricket Club, for whom he made two first-class appearances in the summer of 1920, against Cambridge University and Oxford University. In the two matches, he scored a total of 15 runs and took one wicket.
His brother Jimmy Mitton was also a footballer and played for Glossop, Darwen, Stockport County, Exeter City and Nelson.