ARTHUR Wharton, the world’s first professional black footballer, has been celebrated with a mural unveiled in his home town of Darlington.Here OLIVER DONNELLY, an A-level student at Beckfoot School, Bingley, looks at Arthur’s life.

Says Oliver: “I’ve always been passionate about sport and enjoy reading and writing about it. I became a Bradford City season ticket holder from the age of five. I’d go with my grandad, home and away, he gave me my love of football.”

Oliver writes: On a cold December day in 1930, Arthur Wharton was buried in a pauper’s grave in a municipal cemetery in Edlington, near Doncaster. He was laid to rest without ceremony, yet he was a history maker, the first black professional footballer.

He was born on October 28, 1865 in Jamestown, Accra, Ghana. He left for England to train for the Wesleyan ministry and in 1884 moved to Cleveland College, Darlington. But it was in sport that he gained an outstanding reputation. He played in goal for Darlington and his highly-rated displays and eccentricities made him a fans’ favourite. He entertained, punching the ball long distance, swinging from the cross bar and catching the ball between his legs. He was renowned for his agility, crouching in the corner of his goal, springing out to make first-class saves. Playing for Newcastle and District against Preston North End, he was described as ‘the best goalkeeper in the North’. Preston signed him but later he returned to Darlington. As a professional footballer, 1884-1902, he was often at the centre of controversies. He was recommended for an England cap but may have been denied for not conforming.

He was also a world champion runner, breaking the 100 yards world record in July 1886. There was bitter rivalry between Arthur and Frank Riche of Bradford Rugby Club and Arthur beat him in the AAA Championships in 1886 and 1888.

Arthur played football for teams including Sheffield FC and Rotherham Town. He often fell out with directors and voiced opinions against wealthy industrialists. He was a crowd-puller but after being offloaded to Ashton he became disillusioned, and fell victim to racism from some crowds. The Boer War inflamed racial prejudice. In the 1901-2 season, he played his last game, for Stockport, in a 3-3 draw against Newton Heath (now Manchester United). He’d become the forgotten man of football.

Arthur became landlord of a Rotherham pub and ended his working life as a colliery haulage hand. He played cricket for Yorkshire Main Colliery into his fifties. In 1915 he moved to Edlington. He had a drink problem and marriage troubles.

Arthur died on December 13, 1930 from epithelioma. He died in poverty but on May 8, 1997 a headstone was placed on his grave to commemorate his achievements. In 2014 a statue was unveiled at the entrance to the FA’s headquarters at St George’s Park, Burton, a fitting tribute to England’s first black professional footballer who has made a significant contribution to the history of football, and to black history.