AN historic FA Cup encounter involving Darwen Football Club that helped shape the future of English football is the subject of a new book.

Author Keith Dewhurst has told the fascinating story of Darwen’s 1879 FA Cup heroes.

At the time, football was dominated by the amateur clubs in the south, and the Old Etonians — from public school Eton — had twice been runners-up in the FA Cup.

But times were changing and Darwen, who had just brought in the first paid professionals to play the sport – Fergus Suter and James Love from Scottish club Partick – were real innovators.

Mr Dewhurst’s book tells how Darwen’s working class men — having beaten Birch in Round One and Eagley in Round Two — set up an exciting Round Four clash with the public schoolboys after beating Berkshire side Remnants 3-2 at The Oval.

Another arduous trip south saw The Salmoners go 5-2 down, but somehow they came back to equalise and force a replay.

Another trip to London followed and another draw — this time 2-2 — before a third replay proved too much for the part-time mill workers, who went down 6-2.

Old Etonians would go on to win the cup, but it was Darwen who had changed the game, first with their giant-killing of Remnants, then twice holding their posh opponents, which was simply not meant to happen.

Mr Dewhurst, a football lover who covered Manchester United for the Manchester Evening Chronicle in the period just after the Munich air disaster in 1958, said he discovered the story 50 years ago.

He said: “I have tried to write it several times, but when I wrote a book about Manchester United recently the publishers offered me a new book and I decided to write it properly.”

Underdogs: The Unlikely Story of Football’s First FA Cup Heroes, published by Yellow Jersey, is available at £16.99.