John, commonly known in sports circles as "Jack", played semi-professional for Walker Celtic in the North Eastern League whilst qualifying as draftsman. Oliver played cricket for North Durham in the Tyneside Senior League and on one occasion was presented with a certificate by his fellow players for an outstanding batting display of 77 not out against County Club on 19 August 1933. He transferred to Burnley, playing alongside Jack Marshal (later manager of Burnley, Blackburn & Sheffield United), Tommy Lawton and Harold Readett (later chief scout Blackburn Rovers).
Primarily a defender, he was able to play at either full back positions, wing half or centre half.
Oliver suffered a bad ankle injury whilst at Burnley and retired from League Football. He was offered a position at Calais Football Club.
However he joined Burnley Police where he captained the football and cricket teams. He later transferred to Middlesbrough Police as Detective just prior to the outbreak of World World War II and during war service qualified as a pilot but was never called up for active flying duties.
During those war years Oliver played and captained a Middlesbrough football team mainly made up of police and fire service personnel.
This team played charity matches against similar teams such as Sunderland, raising funds for the Atlantic convoys et cetera Players who played for those teams included George Campsell, Harold Shepherdson, Bob Gurney, Matt Middleton, Bill Forest, P. Houseman, Cliff Whitelam and T.Dawson, all players with League experience. He also played for Stockton Football Club during those war years.
At the end of the war he left the police service and moved back to Newcastle, returning to his job as a draftsman.
As Chief Draftsman of a company he had a young draftsman working for him named Keith Robson, the brother of Sir Bobby Robson. Oliver continued with his interest in football and joined his old playing comrades, Jack Marshall and Harold Readett, at Burnley as North East Scout, before moving with them to Blackburn Rovers.
Many players were sent down for trials from the North East with the aforementioned clubs. There is no recollection of "Jack" playing for Spennymoor United in the 1930s, but he may have "guested".
However he spent many hours scouting for potential talent there during the 1950 and 60s.
In his latter years Jack lived near and conversed with Peter Docherty and Albert Stubbins, famous football names from the past Oliver"s cricket score was 77 not out back in 1933, and he died suddenly clearing snow at the age of 77 on 10 February 1991.