Arthur Wharton was the first black professional footballer in the world

The sporting prowess of Arthur Wharton was first spotted at Darlington Football Club, where he was selected to play as goalkeeper. 

At Darlington, he was described as ‘magnificent’, ‘invincible’ and ‘superb’. 

There was no league championship then and the FA Cup was the main competition, along with district and county matches. 

During the 1885-86 season, whilst still a Darlington player, Arthur was selected for the prestigious Newcastle and District team.  

At that time, it was the best in the city and far superior to the West End and East End sides which later combined to form Newcastle United. 

Like many other great goalkeepers before and after him, he gained a reputation for being eccentric. 

Apparently, he would wait in a crouching position at the side of the goal before rushing out to save the ball. 

He was spotted by Preston North End and joined them as an amateur, and was part of the team that reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1886-87.  

Though part of “The Invincibles” of the 1880s, he left Preston in 1888 to concentrate on his running, and therefore was not part of the team that subsequently won the double in 1888-89. 

He returned to football in 1889, joining Rotherham Town, signing as a professional. 

In 1894, he moved to Sheffield United where he was understudy to regular first-team goalkeeper William “Fatty” Foulke.  

During the 1894-95 season, Wharton played three games for Sheffield United, against Leicester Fosse, Linfield and Sunderland.  

The Sunderland match being a First Division game, made him the first black/mixed race player in the world to play in the top flight. 

In 1895, he left for Stalybridge Rovers but after falling out with the management moved to Ashton North End in 1897.  

Ashton went bankrupt in 1899 and Arthur returned to Stalybridge Rovers, before seeing out his career playing for Stockport County of the Second Division in 1901-02.  

As well as playing in goal, Arthur would also occasionally feature outfield as a winger.

Read about Arthur Wharton the athlete.