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Shooting Stars: The Brief and Glorious History of Blackburn Olympic FC 1878-1889

Graham Phythian


In an era before the penalty kick, when the throw-in was still slung one-handed from the touchline and before goal nets or pitch markings, Blackburn Olympic were to become the stuff of legend by becoming the first Northern club to win the FA Cup.  No one had given Olympic much hope. Their opponents, Old Etonians, had won the cup twice, and been beaten finalists once, in the competition’s early history. Ten of their eleven players had cup final experience behind them including the record breaking Arthur Kinnaird who would captain the side in his ninth final.  Nevertheless, Olympic emerged victorious defeating their southern opponents 2-1 after extra time.

Although they quickly faded into obscurity, Blackburn Olympic’s victory marked the final shift in footballing power from the gentlemen-amateur to the workingman from the industrial heartlands of the midlands and the north.  The Blackburn team also included players who appeared to earn their living purely from football: professionals in all but name.   It was this fact that rankled with the amateurs of the south and when Blackburn Olympic received the Cup it was to ‘somewhat reluctant applause’.   On the other hand ecstatic crowds greeted the team on their return to Blackburn for what the Blackburn Times called ‘a signal victory of the plebeian over patrician Englishmen’. 

Benefiting from extensive and up-to-date research, as well as input from descendants of the 1883 Cup Finalists, this book is a detailed and very entertaining account of the ground-breaking, if short-lived, club.

There are over 60 illustrations, many of which have never before been published. Every result and date of games played is detailed can be found in the appendices. I particularly enjoyed the contemporary sketches of the players which conjure up the attitudes of our Victorian ancestors to the newly emerging sport of football and its early heroes.  Another fine book by the author of  Colossus: The True Story of William Foulke by Graham Phythian