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The first international football match

England v Scotland 1878

© SCRAN

Twenty months after the first international rugby match between the two countries, the Auld Enemy met for the first official association football international match. Like its rugby counterpart, the match was played in Scotland on a cricket ground. Whilst the rugby match had taken place in the east, football looked to the west, and Hamilton Crescent, the West of Scotland Cricket Ground, was selected as the venue.

Prior to the first official meeting, there had been several unofficial international matches played between the countries at the behest of the English Football Association. Such was their enthusiasm for these fixtures they arranged the venue, the officials, the selection of the English side and, incredibly, the selection of the Scottish side. For these matches, the "Scotland" team was assembled from players in and around London who had Scottish connections.

In 1872 League Championships had yet to begin in either country. The FA Cup tournament had completed its inaugural running in England and the Scottish competition would start the following year. For the match on 30 November 1872, St Andrew's Day, the Scotland players were all selected from Queen's Park, the leading Scottish Club of its day. This was not the original intention but the Scots were unable to obtain the services of two countrymen who had competed in the FA Cup final. Arthur F Kinnaird of the Wanderers and Lt Henry Waugh Renny-Tailyour of the Royal Engineers would have to wait until 1873 to play for their country.

While Scotland was eventually represented by eleven men drawn from the Queen's Park club, England played the match with players from nine different sources selected by Charles Alcock the English Football Association Secretary and captain of the FA Cup winning Wanderers. Alcock, who was the driving force behind the unofficial matches, was unable to play in the first official meeting due to injury but he participated by running the line.

Three England players came from Oxford University but only Reginald Welch played from the successful Wanderers side. Scotland wore dark blue shirts, the then colour of Queen's Park, with a single lion crest badge attached. England, in white, had the badge of the three lions on their shirts.

Scotland in the Rosebery strip

© SCRAN

The crowd who gathered to watch the match numbered 4,000 and they paid an entry fee of a shilling, the same price charged by the English Football Association for the first FA Cup final. They endured a twenty-minute delay to the scheduled 2pm kick-off but then settled to watch the contest in the relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere that would accompany the fixture for over one hundred years before the wrong shade of partisan behaviour started to creep in during the 1970s.

Scotland v England in 1903

© EMPICS

The atmosphere worked its way onto the pitch and the game was conducted in a friendly manner (the introduction of shin pads to the game was still two years away) and there were few contentious decisions for the Scottish referee to make.

On a pitch that was heavy due to the rain that had watered Glasgow over the previous three days, the smaller and lighter Scottish side pushed their English counterparts hard. The advantage that the Scots had with their team being drawn from Queen's Park was negated by the way that the English team came together, dispelling fears that their unfamiliarity of playing alongside each other would be an issue.

The crowd, whilst witnessing the first official meeting between the countries, were denied the pleasure of the first goal. That would come the following year at the Oval when England enjoyed a 4-2 victory over the travelling Scots. The next time that Scotland and England would meet without generating a goal was 1970 at Hampden Park.

The Scottish captain, Bob Gardner, who would play a further four times against England and lose only once, had been responsible for team selection. The future Scottish Football Association president had that year made the switch from forward to goalkeeper. He kept goal for his country for the whole match unlike his English counterpart, Robert Barker, who decided to join the action outfield when he switched with William Maynard.

Scotland face England in 1905

© EMPICS

In an age when playing with six or seven forward players was normal, the team selection of Bob Gardner almost paid off as Scotland came closest to victory. In the final stages of the match Robert Leckie sent in a shot that landed on top of the tape that was strung between the two posts to represent the crossbar. It was as near as either side would come and the match yielded no goals but it was the start of a rivalry that continues to generate passion when the countries meet.

Scotland: Bob Gardner, William Ker, Joseph Taylor, James Thompson, James Smith, Robert Smith, Robert Leckie, Alexander Rhind, William Muir MacKinnon, Jamie Weir, David Wotherspoon (all Queen's Park)

England: Robert Barker (Hertfordshire Rangers), Ernest Greenhalgh (Notts County), Reginald Welch (Wanderers), Frederick Chappell (Oxford University), William John Maynard (1st Surrey Rifles), John Brockbank (Cambridge University), Charles Clegg (Sheffield Wednesday), Arnold Kirke Smith (Oxford University), Cuthbert Ottaway (Oxford University/Old Etonians), Charles John Chenery (Crystal Palace), Charles John Morice (Barnes)

Written by: Paul Mitchell



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