The World’s First Football Superstar
The Life of Stephen Smith
by Owen Arthur
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Pub Date 30 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 20 Jul 2022
Pen & Sword, Pen & Sword History
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.