The decision by the Football Association to allow clubs to pay their players increased their out-goings. It was therefore necessary to arrange more matches that could be played in front of large crowds. In March, 1888, William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa, circulated a letter suggesting that "ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home and away fixtures each season." The following month the Football League was formed. It consisted of six clubs from Lancashire (Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End, Accrington, Burnley and Everton) and six from the Midlands (Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers). The main reason Sunderland was excluded was because the other clubs in the league objected to the costs of travelling to the North-East.
Preston North End won the first championship that year without losing a single match and acquired the name the "Invincibles". Blackburn Rovers, who had lost most of their best players to retirement, finished in 4th place, 14 points behind Preston.
At the beginning of the 1889-90 season Tom Mitchell, the club secretary, recruited four top players from Scotland: Tom Brandon, Johnny Forbes, George Dewar and Harry Campbell. Local lads, Jack Southworth, Nathan Walton and Joseph Lofthouse also emerged as outstanding players. That year Blackburn had no difficulty scoring goals. Blackburn Rovers beat Notts County (9-1), Stoke (8-0), Aston Villa (7-0), Bolton Wanderers (7-1) and Burnley (7-1). Top scorers were Southworth (22), Campbell (15), Walton (14) and Lofthouse (11).
Blackburn Rovers finished in 3rd place, six points behind Preston North End. They did even better in the FA Cup. On the way to the final they beat Sunderland (4-2), Grimsby Town (3-0), Bootle (7-0) and Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0).
Blackburn were odds-on favourites to win the cup against Sheffield Wednesday, who played in the Football Alliance league. Blackburn won 6-1 with goals from Billy Townley (3), Jack Southworth, Joseph Lofthouse and Nathan Walton.
Jack Southworth won his first international cap for England against Wales on 23rd Febuary 1885. Southworth scored one of the goals in England's 4-1 victory. Southworth also scored in the other two games he played for his country against Wales (1891) and Scotland (1892).
In the four years he spent at Blackburn Rovers he scored 97 goals in 108 games. In 1893 he was transferred to Everton for £400. In the 1893-1894 season Southworth scored an amazing 36 goals in 31 games.
Jack Southworth died in 1956.