Black History Month 2023

Cheshire FA is marking Black History Month by celebrating the countless contributions that black players and managers have made to English football.

We’ll be highlighting the exceptional achievements of influential figures from across the ages, from the first black professional footballer in the world to stars who continue to pave the way for future generations.

Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton 

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of Arthur Wharton.

Hailed as the first-ever black professional footballer, Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865 and moved to England aged 19, where he pursued a career in sports and, ultimately, changed the world.

Wharton, who also enjoyed running and cricket, began his iconic footballing journey as a goalkeeper for Darlington. After being spotted by Preston North End, he was swiftly recruited and became part of the team that reached the 1886-87 FA Cup semi-finals. He signed as a professional for Rotherham Town in 1889.

Having achieved his dream of playing football professionally, Wharton retired in 1902. There are statues honouring his career at St. George’s Park in the UK and FIFA’s Swiss headquarters.

If Wharton could see how diverse and inclusive football is now, we’re sure he would feel proud of his legacy despite the prejudice and barriers he would have faced. We are honoured to start our BHM celebrations by shining a spotlight on such an influential black figure.

Emma Clarke

Emma Clarke

We're celebrating the achievements of Emma Clarke.

The theme of this year’s BHM is ‘Saluting our Sisters’, as we shine a light on the successes of black women throughout the ages. Few people from the world of football are more deserving of this recognition than Clarke, Britain’s first-known black female footballer.

Born in Liverpool in 1876, Clarke honed her ball skills on the cobbled streets of Merseyside, where, at the time, black people were considered second-class citizens.

Usually an outfield player, Clarke also played in goal. In 1895, she made her official debut for British Ladies, the first women’s association club. Clarke’s footballing career continued until at least 1903.

In 1896, Clarke and her sister Jane joined Graham’s XI’s Scotland tour. Giving women, particularly black women, a chance to display their sporting prowess, both the tour and the team were ahead of their time.

We remember Clarke as an inspiration to young female footballers of all stripes.

Tony Clarke

Tony Collins

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of Anthony Norman ‘Tony’ Collins.

Born in London in 1926, Collins was a left winger who was due to sign for Brentford before being called up to serve in World War II. 

Collins signed for Sheffield Wednesday in 1947, following the war, but made his Football League debut for York City before stints at Watford, Norwich City and Torquay. In 1957, he became the first black player to appear for Crystal Palace.

In 1961, Collins was encouraged to apply for the manager’s role at Rochdale, his final club as a player, having earned the respect of his white teammates at a time when this did not come easy for a black man.

He became the first black manager in the Football League and led Rochdale to the 1962 League Cup Final – the only major final in the club’s history.

We honour Collins as an exceptionally talented scout and a trailblazer in the footballing world.

Albert Johanneson

Albert Johanneson

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of Albert Louis Johanneson.

Born in Germiston, South Africa, Johanneson was a pacy left winger who joined Leeds United in 1961. He scored 13 goals in the 1963-64 season, helping his club to win promotion. In 1965, Leeds made it to the FA Cup Final but were beaten by Liverpool.

During his nine years at Elland Road, Johanneson made 172 appearances, contributed 48 goals, and saw Leeds become First Division champions in 1969. He went on to join York City before retiring in 1972.

Johanneson passed away in 1995. While he never managed to obtain an FA Cup Winner’s Medal, he made history by becoming the first black person to play in the final of the competition.

Subject to racial abuse throughout his career, Johanneson is lauded as a footballing trailblazer who helped pave the way for future generations of black players in England.


John Barnes

John Barnes

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of John Charles Bryan Barnes MBE.

As footballing legends go, they don’t come much bigger than Barnes. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963, he moved to London at 12 and went on to become one of the greatest England players of all time.

Barnes joined Watford at the age of 17, starting out as a left winger and later switching to central midfield. As a player, Barnes was often the target of racial abuse from the terraces, a topic he has since written and spoken about publicly.

Despite these challenges, Barnes won two league titles and two FA Cups with Liverpool. He also became only the seventh black England football internationalist, earning 79 caps for his country. 

Now a popular pundit and presenter, Barnes was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 and will no doubt go down in history as one of the greats.

Mary Phillip

Mary Phillip 

We're celebrating the achievements of Mary Rose Phillip.

Born in London in 1977, Phillip joined Millwall Lionesses aged 12 before moving to Fulham and turning professional in 2000 – becoming one of the first 16 UK women to do so.

As club captain, Phillip helped Fulham to secure a Women’s Premier League title and two FA Women’s Cup trophies, culminating in a treble-winning season in 2002-03. The following year, she joined Arsenal, where she won four consecutive Women’s Premier League titles, three further FA Women’s Cup trophies, and the 2006-07 UEFA Women’s Cup.

On the international stage, Phillip received 65 England caps between 1995 and 2008, becoming the first black player to captain the women’s international side in 2002. Until 2011, she was the only player to represent the country in two World Cup squads.

Phillip became manager of Peckham Town in 2019, and was the UK’s first female manager to lead a senior men's team to silverware – the London Senior Trophy – with their 2020 win.

We can’t wait to see what else Phillip goes on to achieve in her managerial career.

Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of Marcus Rashford MBE.

Born in Manchester in 1997, Rashford joined Manchester United at just seven years of age.

Rashford, who is of Kittitian and Jamaican descent, is the youngest English player to have scored in his first senior international match. He has since represented England at the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, and has scored a total of 76 goals for his club. 

An incredibly talented player, Rashford has also made significant contributions to several political and philanthropic causes off the pitch, including racism, homelessness and child hunger in the UK.

Rashford’s commitment to both charity and football is nothing short of amazing. Although he is still young, we are certain that he will go down in black history as one of the most talented and influential players in the world.


Lauren James

Lauren James

We mark Black History Month by celebrating the achievements of Lauren Elizabeth James.

Born in London in 2001, James plays as a forward for the Women’s Super League club Chelsea and the England women’s national team. 

James, who has Grenadian and Dominican roots, was scouted by Arsenal aged 13 and trained with their boys’ team. In 2017, she became the second-youngest player in the club’s history to make their debut.

James later signed with Chelsea, scoring her first goal for the club against Leicester City. She also recently played in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, where England were narrowly beaten by Spain.

James is the sister of England defender Reece James, and the pair are the first brother and sister to represent England at senior level.

Being a black woman in a male-dominated sport, James has cemented her reputation as an inspiring athlete and remarkable role model for young black women and footballers.

We’ve covered some truly inspirational black players who have helped to reshape English football, all the way from the 19th century through to the present day.

Of course, we’ve only been able to highlight a handful of figures, so be sure to let us know if you’d like to celebrate the achievements of any black players or managers we haven’t mentioned.

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