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17 October 2014

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Renton Crowned World Champions

The Renton side of 1888


Football's first World Championship trophy is an unimpressive piece of work. It's around a foot high and made of inexpensive pewter. The trophy's permanent home as one would expect is somewhat grander - a museum dedicted to the game in one of football's sporting cathedrals.

But what's it doing in the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park?

The trophy was won by the Dunbartonshire village team of Renton in 1888 in the heydey of the amateur game in Scotland.

Renton were one of several in the Dumbarton area - others include the Vale of Leven and Dumbarton. Sandy McBain of the Scottish Football Museum outlines one reason for the popularity of football in the area.

"Queens Park did an exhibition game in the area and perhaps the locals decided it was a better game than rugby. They would also have seen that football was a simpler game; whatever the reason football was extremely popular in Dunbartonshire."

Renton, Dumbarton and the Vale of Leven were all early winners of the Scottish Cup. Indeed it was Renton's six-one thrashing of Cambuslang in the cup final of 1888 that started them on the road to becoming the first world champions.

According to the myth that now surrounds the story, Renton were challenged to a match by the English FA Cup winners West Bromwich Albion.

Whatever the circumstances, a game was subsequently arranged to determine who were the "Champions of the United Kingdom and the World".

The venue was Second Hampden at Cathkin. The date: the 19 May 1888, although the match nearly didn't take place at all.

Newspapers of the time report that the game was played in the foulest of conditions. A thunder storm had wreaked havoc in Glasgow, claiming the lives of four people. Perhaps unsurprisngly West Brom wanted the game postponed - but the hardy Rentonians insisted the game go ahead.

Around six thousand spectators watched the Dark Blues beat their challengers by four goals to one.
Two of Renton's goals were scored by the McCall brothers, Jamie and Archie - both Scottish internationals.

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