John Campbell was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in September 1871. A prolific goalscorer in local football, Campbell joined Celtic in May 1890.
In 1891 he scored 12 goals in a Celtic reserve game. The following year he was a member of the team that beat Queen's Park, 5-1 in the 1882 Scottish Cup Final. Campbell scored two of the goals in the match.
Campbell won his first international cap for Scotland against Ireland on 25th March, 1893. Scotland won the game 5-1. The following month he was in the Scotland team that lost 5-2 to England.
In May 1895 Campbell joined Aston Villa. Campbell became a member of a forward line that included John Devey, Dennis Hodgetts, Charlie Athersmith, John Cowan and Stephen Smith.
Aston Villa won the First Division title in 1895-96. Campbell ended up top scorer with 26 goals. As Philip Gibbons pointed out in Association Football in Victorian England: "Aston Villa had twice won the League Championship, as well as the FA Cup, during the three previous seasons, with a team generally acknowledged as the finest in the land."
Aston Villa also won the First Division title in 1896-97. Second-place Sheffield United finished an amazing 11 points behind Villa. The club scored 73 goals in the league that season. Johnny Campbell scored 13 goals in 29 games.
On 30th January, 1897, Aston Villa beat Newcastle United 5-0 in the third round of the FA Cup. Aston Villa went onto beat Notts County (2-0), Preston North End (3-2) and Liverpool (3-0) to reach the final against Everton. A crowd of 60,000 arrived at Crystal Palace to watch the final. Charlie Athersmith scored the opening goal but Everton hit back with goals from Jack Bell and Richard Boyle. Aston Villa continued to dominate the game and added two more from George Wheldon and Jimmy Crabtree. That finished the scoring and therefore Aston Villa had emulated the great Preston North End side that had achieved the FA Cup and Football League double in 1888-89 season.
In August 1897 Campbell decided to return to Celtic. In the 1898-99 season Campbell helped his club to win the Scottish League. Campbell's form for his club enabled him to win back his place in the Scotland team in 1898. He played against Ireland (3-0) and England (1-3). Campbell failed to score in both these games and he was dropped again.
Campbell was also recalled to the national team and on 3rd March 1900, he scored two goals in Scotland's 3-0 win over Ireland. The following month he was a member of the team beat England 4-1.
By the time Campbell left Celtic to play for Third Lanark in August 1903 he had scored over 100 goals for the club. Campbell helped his new club win the Scottish League in the 1903-04 season.
Campbell retired from football in April 1906. In his first-class career in Scotland and England he had scored 141 goals in 264 games.
John Campbell died in Scotland in December 1947.