Darwen FC And The First Professional Footballer

There is no doubting Darwen FC’s place in footballing history, having formed in 1870 and becoming one of the early teams to adopt Football Association rules, but the football club was also likely to have signed the first ever ‘professional’ footballer.

Long before players were changing clubs on a regular basis, football teams were made up by people who lived in the town, and a certain level of controversy surrounded neighbouring team Blackburn Rovers using a few residents from Darwen to fill in for some of their absent players.

However, a few years later, Darwen went a step further when they brought Fergus Suter, a stonemason from Glasgow, to the town. Although the transfer, in 1879, was supposed to involve Suter starting work in the North West he soon claimed that English stone was far too difficult to work and he soon gave up his job to concentrate purely on football.

Although the ENGLISH game was still officially amateur in 1879 Suter’s situation sparked rumours that he was being paid to play football for Darwen.

Either way he caused more controversy by moving to Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 1880. Back then the two clubs were bitter rivals and Darwen actually beat Blackburn 3 – 0 in 1880 to win the Lancashire Cup final.

However, the two sides no longer play competitive matches against each other as both teams went their separate ways when Darwen were relegated from the football league shortly before moving to the Anchor Ground.

In this, their final Football League season, Darwen FC set a record of 18 straight defeats which still stands today. It is also believed that Darwen played the first ever game under floodlights at their old Barley Bank ground in 1878.

On their way down through the ranks of English Football, Darwen became founder members of the Football League Division Two when they were first relegated from the top flight in 1892.

So, although your town’s football club may currently play in the lower leagues of English football, you can be safe in the knowledge that it’s place in footballing history is firmly cemented.

Interesting note: Following retirement from football Fergus ran the Millstone in Darwen!