Described as being of ‘strapping physique’ on signing for Exeter City in the summer of 1929, Gurkin was a man of many clubs.
He played in County Durham for Dean Bank and then South Hetton Royal Rovers.
An automatic choice in the defensive pivot’s role over four seasons, John ended his Football League career in the South West with Exeter City, then served Hyde United before moving back to the North East with Jarrow and Murton in non-league football into the Thirties.
Signing for West Ham United in 1921, he made one league appearance for the Hammers, before moving to Norwich City for the 1922-23 season, adding a further ten league outings.
After leaving Norwich, Gurkin played for Stalybridge Celtic and then Spennymoor United. In September 1924 he signed for Third Division North side, Durham City, where he was one of the club's stalwart footballers during the mid-Twenties, where he made a total of 166 appearances (3 goals) for the Wearside club as a tough and dependable centre-half. Like many of City’s players he hailed from the Sunderland district, at Murton.
After another short stay with Stalybridge Celtic, Gurkin signed for the Grecians.
He made just two league appearances against Queen’s Park Rangers and Torquay United respectively, being released at the end of the 1929-30 season.