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The World’s First Football Superstar (ePub)

The Life of Stephen Smith

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Sport P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > By Century > 20th Century

By Owen Arthur
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
File Size: 7.7 MB (.epub)
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 20 mono
ISBN: 9781399083492
Published: 15th July 2022


£4.99 Print price £25.00

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Buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of the small village of Benson in Oxfordshire lies the body of a footballing world champion from a bygone era shrouded in the mists of time. His name was Stephen Smith. This footballer of the Victorian and Edwardian era could claim as many league title winning medals as John Terry and Wayne Rooney, more league winners medals than Eric Cantona, Frank Lampard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer.

This book is the never before told story of a footballer born at the end of the Industrial Revolution, son of agricultural labourers who became a miner, working underground combining that job with one as a professional footballer to rise to the top of the footballing world. Smith won trophy after trophy in the best and only professional league anywhere in the world at that time. He also scored the goal that made England World Champions in 1895.

Smith, at the top of his game in a move that mirrored the Premier League breakaway of 1992 and the recent ill-fated European Super League then joined the newly formed Southern League at a time when the Football League started to cap player wages. He did this in order to ensure his family’s future as well as end his reliance on his part-time earnings from mining. Football’s zeitgeist has fundamentally changed very little in the last 130 years for those inside the industry.

This is the story of Stephen Smith and the quest to find the support and funds to mark and commemorate one of the most decorated yet underappreciated footballers in the history of the game.

As featured in

11 Freunde Magazine - April 2023

A really good book and makes me think about how good football used to be.

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

As featured in

Round and About (Wallingford)

Owen Arthur has rather well systematically charted the career of this exceptional footballer, giving plenty of detail of how his career evolved and developed. Alongside this there is local detail about the area of Staffordshire in which he spent his early life and very appropriate social comment about the ramifications of that experience in how he developed his professional life.

This is [...] an extraordinarily interesting book, both at a local Staffordshire level but also because of the insight that it reveals into the wider sporting world which many of us enjoy.

Reviewer: Trevor James

The Historian and the Historical Association

This is a very interesting book about the life and times of English footballer Stephen Smith. He was the first football superstar during the Victorian and Edwardian era. We learn about his early life and also his work in the mines.

NetGalley, Gloria Watson

About Owen Arthur

Owen Arthur grew up in Staffordshire in the 1980s and has been in love with football and history since he can remember. He has followed Aston Villa Football Club since his father took him to his first game at the age of nine. He has taught History in secondary schools in the West Midlands since graduating from the University of Birmingham in 2003. When not following his beloved Aston Villa home and away he makes his son accompany him to historical sites throughout the British Isles usually under duress.

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