John Hargreaves was born in Blackburn on 13th December, 1860. On 5th November 1875, two friends, John Lewis and Arthur Constantine, organized a meeting at the St Leger Hotel in Blackburn to discuss the possibility of establishing a football club in the town. Seventeen men attended the meeting and it was decided to establish the Blackburn Rovers Football Club.
Jack Hargreaves and Fred Hargreaves, who both worked in the legal profession, became important figures at the club. They had both played football for Malvern College and advocated that Blackburn Rovers adopted the quartered shirt design of their school shirts. However, they suggested that the traditional green should be changed to the light blue worn by the Cambridge University football team.
Other players in the team included, Doctor Greenwood and Jimmy Brown. In 1880 the club signed Hugh McIntyre, Fergie Suter and Jimmy Douglas from Scotland. This made them one of the best teams in England.
Hargreaves, who played at wing-half, inside-forward or outside right for his club, won his first international cap for England against Wales on 12th March, 1881. Also in the team was his brother, Fred Hargreaves. England lost the game 1-0. He won his second and last cap against Scotland on 12th March 1881. England embarrassingly lost the game 6-1.
In 1882, Blackburn Rovers became the first provincial team to reach the final of the FA Cup. Their opponents was Old Etonians who had reached the final on five previous occasions. However, Blackburn had gone through the season unbeaten and was expected to become the first northern team to win win the game. Doctor Greenwood was injured the team included five players who had won international caps, John Hargreaves, Jimmy Douglas, Fred Hargreaves, Hugh McIntyre and Jimmy Brown.
John Hargreaves played at left-half. The Old Etonians scored after eight minutes and despite creating a great number of chances, Blackburn was unable to obtain an equalizer in the first-half. Early in the second-half George Avery was seriously injured and Blackburn Rovers was reduced to ten men. Despite good efforts by Jimmy Brown, Jack Hargreaves and John Duckworth, Rovers were unable to score.
Blackburn Rovers also got to the 1884 FA Cup Final. Their opponents were Queens Park, the best team in Scotland. John Hargreaves played at inside right. The Scottish club scored the first goal but Blackburn Rovers won the game with goals from Blackburn lads, James Forrest and Joe Sowerbutts.
John Hargreaves was an amateur player and stopped playing for Blackburn Rovers when it began to rely more and more on professional players.