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Preston’s first black footballer celebrated with statue

Posted on - 11th March, 2014 - 8:07pm | Author - | Posted in - News, Preston North End

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Celebrating England’s first black professional footballer, a statue will be erected at the National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent.

Former Preston North End player Arthur Wharton will be commemorated in bronze by sculptor Vivien Mallock.

The statue of the Ghana born football player was commissioned by the Darlington-based Arthur Wharton Foundation.

Born in the Gold Coast, now known as Ghana, in 1865, Arthur Wharton moved to County Durham in 1884 to train as a Methodist missionary. He later opted instead to become a full-time athlete.

His football career started as goal keeper at Darlington FC, before joining Preston North End as a semi professional.

In 1887 he played against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup semi-final, a game they lost 3-1. He left Preston in 1888 to concentrate on running, and was not part of the team that subsequently won the Double in 1888-89.

Wharton was such a good player at Preston that one football writer suggested he could win an international cap for England.

He later went on to play for Rotherham Town (as a professional), Sheffield United and Stockport County during a career between 1886 and 1902.

Arthur was the first official 100-yard world record holder and world champion in 1886, as well as a professional cricketer, cycling champion and rugby player. In 1887 he set a record time for cycling between Preston and Blackburn.

Arthur Wharton died a penniless alcoholic in 1930 at Springhill House Sanatorium in Doncaster. In 2003, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

The Athletic Journal from 29th October, 1887 said of Arthur: “Good judges say that if Wharton keeps goal for Preston North End in their English Cup tie the odds will be considerably lengthened against them. I am of the same opinion”

The Sheffield Telegraph and Independent quoted in 1942: “In a match between Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday at Olive Grove I saw Wharton jump, take hold of the cross bar, catch the ball between his legs, and cause three onrushing forwards – Billy Ingham, Clinks Mumford and Micky Bennett – to fall into the net. I have never seen a similar save since and I have been watching football for over fifty years.”

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