John Sutcliffe was born at Shibden, near Halifax, on 14th April 1868. He played Rugby Union for Bradford and Heckmondewike and in 1889 won an England cap against New Zealand. Soon afterwards Heckmondewike was suspended for professionalism and so he decided to concentrate on playing football.
Sutcliffe joined Bolton Wanderers. He started as a forward but was soon playing as goalkeeper. Sutcliffe made his debut in a 7-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion at Pikes Lane in December 1889. Other players in the team at this time included James Turner, John Somerville, Di Jones and James Cassidy.
In the 1889-90 season Bolton Wanderers finished 9th with 19 points out of a possible 44. The 1890-91 season saw a slight improvement with the club finishing in 5th place with 25 points.
Sutcliffe continued to impress as a goalkeeper and he won his first international cap for England against Wales on 13th March 1893. Also in the team that day was Billy Bassett, John Goodall, Bob Holmes,
In the 1893-94 season, Bolton Wanderers beat Small Heath (4-3), Newcastle United (2-1), Liverpool (3-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (3-2) to reach the 1894 FA Cup Final. Unfortunately, Bolton lost to Notts County 4-1 in the final at Goodison Park.
John Sutcliffe played in 364 games for Bolton Wanderers before he moved to Millwall in the summer of 1902. He won his last international cap against Wales on 2nd March, 1902. England won the game 2-1. In 1903 he joined Manchester United and appeared in 21 games before moving to Plymouth Argyle in the Southern League.
John Sutcliffe died in Bradford on 7th July 1947.