BACK in the 1880s, Darwen was proud of its footballer Sam Fish.

Born in the town, he had, according to the Blackburn Standard of 1885, 'shown no disposition to stray away from the place of his birth', as others of no greater ability had done.

'Sam's heart is in the right place, it is sound to the core and he may be pronounced a patriot to the backbone.

'With him Darwen FC is first and the rest no-where.

'Sam thinks his club need fear no opponent, a sentiment shared by many of the enthusiasts of the Barley Bank Meadow,' wrote the newspaper.

A plasterer by trade, Sam completed his 25th year as a local footballer in 1885; he had been 15 when he became one of a band of players known as Moorside, before moving on to Hill Houses, which later changed its name to Darwen Ramblers.

In 1879 he made his debut for Darwen FC and the club enjoyed a memorable season - becoming first winners of the Lancashire Football Challenge Cup, under the captaincy of William Brindle.

He won a runners up medal in 1882 when Blackburn Rovers turned the tables on their former conquerors and in 1884 he played at half back when Darwen won the East Lancashire Charity Cup, after a twice fought final with their Accrington rivals.

Sam succeeded Tom Marshall as captain, a position he held for two seasons, before resigning in favour of J Richmond.

He had only been with the Darwen club for a season when he earned his first county badge, the occasion being Lancashire v North Wales, at the historic battle ground at Chapeltown.

Reported the Standard 'he has also worn the county colours against Sheffield, when he had the honour of captaining the side, twice against Birmingham and Glasgow.

'The County Palatine never had a player who more richly deserved its highest honours.

'Although a most unassuming fellow, he plays sterling football and rising players would do well to follow his example.'

Our photograph, sent by Sam's granddaughter Mrs Tomlinson, who lives in Darwen, shows the Darwen FC team of 1879/80 and it, intriguingly, includes two doctors.

On the back row, left to right are: J Duxbury, Sam, W Brindle, L Broughton and W H Moorehouse.

Seated are: T Marshall, T Rostron, Dr Gledhill, Dr J C Holden, R Kirkham and T Bury, while lying at the front is Fergie Suter.

Suter was a professional player and his signing for Darwen, along with James Love, both from Partick FC in Glasgow, is believed to be the first time professional players took to the field in England.

Formed in 1870, Darwen FC originally played rugby football, as well as cricket and adopted association rules in 1875

The club belonged to the Football League from 1891 to 1899, joining the Lancashire League in 1890.

In October 1878, at their Barley Bank ground, Darwen played a representative team from Blackburn under floodlights, which is believed to be one of the first, if not the very first instance, of their use in football - Darwen won 3–0.