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Messi's millions built on a pioneering Scot who was first paid player in 1876! 19.04.2020 mirror.co.uk/sport SM1 SUNDAY MIRROR 61 Football RewindSIMON MULLOCK and MARK METCALF hail man who changed game forever.

LIONEL MESSI will have never heard of Jimmy Lang - but it's arguable that the little-known Scot paved the way for the Argentine to become football's richest player.

It is almost 144 years since Glasgow-born Lang made the journey from his home town to Sheffield in answer to the promise of a better life - and the chance to become the first man to earn money playing the game of football.

Barcelona star Messi now banks a vault-busting PS62million-a-year thanks to his status as football's most coveted talent.

That's a far cry from the shillings and pence that Lang would have earned when he made his debut in November 1876 for the football club that was to later become Sheffield Wednesday.

But Lang's paid-to-play pioneering - that now sees players earn a fortune with their talent and the entertainment they give to millions around the world - was breaking an FA regulation that was held as sacrosanct by the public school old boys who had first formulated the laws of the game.

In the Victorian era, sport was still the preserve of the gentlemen amateurs.

But football was about to be transformed by the northern working class - with the help of a band of Scotsmen with a natural talent for the game.

Historians believe they can now confirm with some confidence that Lang should be recognised as the world's first professional footballer.

Just as in 'The English Game', the Netflix series that explains how football was wrested away from the Old Etonians, this is a tale of two Scotsman.

The small-screen series, written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, tells of how Fergus Suter and Jimmy Love were tempted away from Partick in 1878 by the mill-owning benefactor of Lancashire club Darwen.

But by then, Lang and fellow Scot Peter Andrews were already settled in England - and thrilling fans on the opposite side of the Pennines.

Andrews was the first to move south of the border - in the autumn of 1876 - after playing alongside Lang in a Glasgow representative team that had beaten Sheffield and Hallam 2-0 in an annual challenge match played in front of a 6,000 crowd at Bramall Lane.

Andrews signed for Sheffield Heeley and made his debut against Thursday Wanderers in the Sheffield FA Challenge Cup on November 2, 1876.

For years, it was believed he must have been paid to play.

But he was already 30 years old when he moved to South Yorkshire and his middle-class standing means it was unlikely he would have asked for cash to play a game that was still strictly amateur.

Lang, who was 25 when he joined The Wednesday, was from more humble stock.

He had lost an eye in an industrial accident while working in the Clydeside shipyard of John Brown and Co in 1869.

But that didn't halt his football career - and five years later he was in the Clydesdale team beaten 2-0 by Queen's Park in the first-ever Scottish Cup final. Lang had already won the first of two Scotland caps, scoring a goal in the 4-0 win over Wales in Glasgow, before making the 250-mile steam train journey south to Sheffield.

He was put on the payroll of a knife-making firm owned by Wednesday official Walter Fearnhough and made his debut for the club against Hallam on November 25, 1876.

Newspaper reports confirm that Lang set up the Wednesday goal for Tom Butler, describing him as "the celebrated player who has come to reside here".

It seems Lang was given considerable freedom to concentrate on his football rather than knife making.

He was even allowed to return to Scotland to play in another Scottish Cup final, when his Third Lanark side were beaten 1-0 by Vale of Leven in 1878.

Lang helped The Wednesday win the Sheffield Challenge Cup three times and was also in the team that played in the club's first-ever FA Cup tie. Later, he played for Attercliffe, Sheffield Zulus and Northwich Victoria.

Football historian Martin Westby said: "Peter Andrews did play before Lang but I am convinced by research done by fellow historian Graham Curry that Andrews was a middle-class man working close to the Heeley FC ground.

"On the balance of probabilities this is a man who had no need for payment to play the game he loved, and he had moved south for work reasons.

"This is opposed to ex-shipyard worker Jimmy Lang, who in my opinion, travelled from Glasgow to Sheffield purely for football and remuneration reasons."

In the Victorian era, sport was the preserve of gentlemen amateurs

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You could say the tale of Lionel Messi's millions began 144 years ago THANKS JIMMY!
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 19, 2020
Words:775
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