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16 October 2014

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Football

Renton Crowned World Champions

Indeed Renton's dominance of the Scottish game in 1888 is highlighted by the fact that eight of the
team represented Scotland that year.

The 1888 West Bromwich Albion team

© EMPICS

Renton also beat both Sunderland and Preston in 1888. So perhaps they were justified in describing themselves as champions of the United Kingdom - with apologies to Wales and Ireland (pre-partition of course). But champions of the world?

Historian and broadcaster Bob Cramspey isn't convinced: "The claim has been vastly overplayed. It started off as a bit of a joke. After all, if you don't play anyone else how can you be champions of the world."

But even at Renton's moment of triumph, the seeds of Renton's demise were being sown. Bob Cramspey explains: "Market forces entered football. Professionalism entered the sport and players began to gravitate towards metropolitan teams both in Scotland and down south.

"Even before the advent of professionalism, players could be lured away with the promise of well-paid jobs arranged by the bigger clubs.

"There are even stories around that English Scouts would be giving a good soaking in the local river if they were seen sniffing around a match in Scotland."

In the same year as Renton were crowned "World Champions" one of the Scottish game's biggest clubs was born in the East End of Glasgow. And soon two of Renton's star players were on their way to Celtic, as both Neil McCallum and James Kelly swapped the dark blue for the green and white.

Renton soldiered on, however. They were one of the founder members of the football league in 1890, although they were expelled after just a handful of games. That was because they'd played a friendly match against a "professional" team, the Edinburgh Saints.

Renton were re-admitted the following season and continued as a Scottish Football League side until 1898 when they resigned from the league. Twenty four years later they folded completely.

Renton's place in Scottish football's history is but a brief chapter. Their story is one of a village team triumphant in an age of amateurism, yet unable to survive long after the birth of professionalism.
The club's legacy - part myth, part historical fact. But worthy of a place in the Scottish Football Museum.

Written by: David Currie

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