After leaving school, he joined the Old Foresters. In 1878, shortly after his twentieth birthday, he was selected by England for the match at Hampden Park, Glasgow against Scotland on 2 March. Although England "fielded a side they thought capable of defeating the Scots, ...(they) returned home with a humiliating 7-2 defeat", with three of the Scottish goals coming from John McDougall. Fairclough was described as a "powerful if somewhat ungainly forward".
Life outside football
- Betts, Graham (2006). England: Player by player. Green Umbrella Publishing. p. 99. ISBN 1-905009-63-1.
- Gibbons, Philip (2001). Association Football in Victorian England - A History of the Game from 1863 to 1900. Upfront Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 1-84426-035-6.
- Scotland 7 - England 2; 2 March 1878 (Match summary)
- Rob Cavallini (2007). Play Up Corinth: A History of the Corinthian Football Club. Tempus Publishing. pp. 275 & p.279. ISBN 0-7524-4479-4.
- Brief note on www.iffhs.de