#ThrowbackThursday - England v Scotland: Part One - 1870 to 1898

England v Scotland is the oldest international rivalry in World Football.  The two sides played out what has since been recognised as the first ever international football match way back in 1872, which took place on 30th November (St. Andrews’ Day) at Hamilton Crescent – otherwise known as the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in the Partick area of Glasgow. 

However, the English Football Association (simply known as the F.A. without the nation prefix that every other national football association has, on account of being the world’s first football association) were founded in 1863 and arranged five England v Scotland ‘pseudo international’ matches which predated this, all of which were organised by FA Secretary Charles W. Alcock – an old Harovian who is also credited with creating the FA Cup and organising the world’s first Cricket test match, while Secretary for Surrey County Cricket Club.

The first such representative match occurred in early March 1870 and took place at the Kennington Oval Cricket Ground (also home to Surrey County Cricket Club).  As described by Richard Sanders in his book ‘Beastly Fury: The Strange Birth of British Football’: ‘the Scottish team consisted of London based men whose connection to Scotland often amounted to little more than a fondness for scotch whisky’. Representing Scotland that day had been the son of the British Prime Minster of the day – William Gladstone, as well as the founder of the University of Westminster, Quentin Hogg.  There had been four further representative games - all of which took place in London – none of which the ‘Scottish’ side managed to win.


There had been resentment north of the border that the Scots representative side contained no Scots-based Scots whatsoever.  Therefore, as it would be another decade before the Scottish FA would be founded, in 1872 Glasgow-based club Queens Park FC – members of the FA since 1870 and competitors within the earliest FA Cup competitions – took up the FA’s challenge of forming a Scots-based side to play England.  All eleven Scotland players were from Queens Park FC, while the English side were drawn from nine different clubs.  The match at Hamilton Crescent drew a crowd of 4,000 spectators, however ended in a goalless draw.  ‘The Graphic’ Newspaper on describing the match would state: ‘individual skill was generally on England’s side…the Southrons however did not play to each other so well as their opponents, who seem to be adept at passing the ball’.


The Scots – in particular Queens Park FC – were the inventors of the passing game, otherwise known as ‘Combination Football’.  As explained by Patrick Barclay in his 2013 article for the Independent: ‘After 150 years the truth: Scotland invented football’: ‘the English game was still mainly a question of head-down dribbling and "backing up" (by colleagues anxious to seize what was later dubbed the "second ball"). This was not a game which would have conquered the world with its beauty….And then the Scots had the notion of artfully distributing the ball among the players’.  Barclay cites the example of Queens Park FC – who provided the majority of the early Scottish sides, in that: ‘They obtained a copy of the FA laws and amended them to conform with an almost scientific blend of dribbling and passing.  When they invented passing, these lads invented football. Not the heir to Shrove Tuesday scrimmages but the football that was to charm every continent. Far from being an English game, it was one that was conceived to confound the English because the Scots, being generally smaller than their opponents in football's oldest international rivalry, could hardly afford to take them on physically’.  Apparently, as late as the 1950s English professionals would refer to the passing game as the ‘Scottish’ style.   

The return fixture took place just over three months later in early March 1873 at the Oval, this time in front of a 3,000 crowd.  Queens Park however only had sufficient money to send seven players and an umpire to London, therefore the Scottish side didn’t consist entirely of players from Queens Park and included four London based Scots.  As Richard Sanders explains: ‘the scots incorporated in the side a handful of the exiles from Southern public school teams.  The newcomers completely broke their rhythm’.  As a result, the English ran out 4-2 winners.  Over the next few years, the Scots didn’t make the same mistake again and the entirety of the Queens Park side would represent Scotland over the next few years. Queens Park were such a successful team unit that they hadn’t lost a game until nine years after they were founded in 1867.


From hereafter, the England v Scotland fixture became an annual event – the hosting of which would be alternated between the two nations.  The early England v Scotland internationals however were overwhelmingly dominated by the Scots. Scotland’s first victory over England came in March 1874, with a 2-1 win at Hamilton Crescent.  For the next fifteen years, England would only manage one win over Scotland.  An example of Scottish domination over England during this period would be the first England v Scotland fixture to be played at Hampden Park in early March 1878, where the Scots ran out 7-2 winners.  England’s sole victory during this decade and a half came a year later in April 1879 at Kennington Oval, the match kicking off at 4.18PM to avoid clashing with that year’s boat race.  England came back from 1-4 down to defeat Scotland 5-4.


Playing for the England side that day would be Arnold Hills – heir to the Thames Ironworks fortune and subsequent founder of West Ham United FC.  In the midst of this run of Scottish dominance over England, after a 1-5 defeat to the Scots at Hampden in 1882 FA Secretary Charles Alcock stated that: ‘the disinclination to pass at the proper time settled England’s chances as effectively as it had done from the very first of these international contests’. In the first international in 1872, the only player not public school educated was Charles Clegg – who later went on to become chairman of the FA in 1890.  Clegg was one such player open to the merits of combination play, however as explained by Richard Sanders, he: ‘found his team-mates reluctant to pass the ball, or indeed speak to him at all.  Every man seemed centred on himself’.


Another Sheffield based England player, Billy Mosforth – whom Richard Sanders describes as the first Working Class player to play for England (an engraver by trade) also found difficulty with his England colleagues and their reluctance to pass the ball.  During a 1-3 defeat to Scotland in March at the Oval in 1877, Mosforth exploded at his team mate Alfred Lyttleton (the scorer of England’s only goal), who responded ‘I am playing for my own pleasure sir!’ During the mid-1870s, the popularity of association football would be far greater in Scotland, than in England – particularly the South of England, where Rugby would dominate. 

According to Richard Sanders, folk Football – of the kind in which many English monarchs from the middle-ages unsuccessfully tried to ban: ‘lingered in Scotland for longer than most of England’, where it had mainly died with the onset of the industrial revolution before its modern revival within the public schools.  In 1875/76 forty nine teams entered the Scottish Cup in comparison to just thirty two sides entering the FA Cup that year south of the border.  Also a crowd of 10,000, that turned out for game between the Wanderers and Queens Park at Hampden ‘dwarfed anything so far seen in London’ according to Richard Sanders.


Into the 1880s however, England and Scotland would be joined by Wales and Ireland in the creation of the British Home International Championship in 1883/84.  The first fixture between England and Scotland within this tournament would take place in mid-March 1884 at Cathkin Park in Glasgow, which the Scots won 1-0.  The first four home international championships would be won by the Scots.  So dominant were Scotland that the assistant secretary of the F.A. – Nicholas ‘Pa’ Lane-Jackson – on noting that the majority of the Scots side emanated from one side, Queens Park FC – took the decision to form Corinthians FC, in order to provide a club side to produce an England team with the kind of co-ordination enjoyed by the Scots.


Lane-Jackson stated: ‘my reasons for this venture was that our English teams were continually being beaten by Scotland….(who were) constantly playing together giving them a combination altogether lacking in our elevens’.  For two games against Wales, the Corinthians produced all eleven players for the England side.  Meanwhile, as explained in Chapter Two of my 2013 publication ‘How the East Was Won’, with Football still largely playing second fiddle to Rugby in the south of England, examples of London clubs founded by Scots migrants wishing to carry on their pastime south of the border include Old Castle Swifts (the East London predecessor side to West Ham United), Millwall (whose rampant lion emblem was taken from Scotland’s Royal Coat of Arms) and most famously Arsenal.


During the 1880s, the Scots would also be on the forefront of the professionalization of English football in the North of England, in particular in Lancashire and most notably at Preston North End.  As described by Richard Sanders: ‘Almost from the first, Preston North End was a money making enterprise…the world’s first unashamedly professional football team’.  The Chairman and Manager of Preston North End – Major William Sudell – imported numerous ‘Scotch professors’ into his side, which led to his football team becoming a major attraction in the town.  By the end of that decade, North End won the inaugural Football League Championship without losing a game – a feat which no top tier side would repeat for another century, when Arsenal became the modern ‘invincibles’ in 2003/04.

As described by Richard Sanders: ‘the early ‘professionals’, in the sense of men who travelled for financial reasons to play Football, were almost all from Scotland, where the game had taken off among the working classes just that little bit earlier than in England’.  The issue of professionalism came to a head in 1884, when Preston North End met amateur side Upton Park FC at Preston's Deepdale Stadium.  Complaints of ‘Professionalism’ (then outlawed by the F.A.) were raised against Preston, after Nicholas ‘Pa’ Lane Jackson had carried out investigations north of the border with clubs whose players Preston had poached.

As well as fears that, like with Rugby League and Union, Football would suffer a similar split, the FA would now be headed by Charles Clegg, who as previously explained detested the snobbery of the public school ‘gentleman’ and according to Richard Sanders: ‘all his life he made a point of speaking in a broad Yorkshire accent at F.A. meetings’.  A Clegg headed FA moved to legalize professionalism in 1885 and it was the professionalism issue which turned the tide in the England v Scotland fixture, as the Scottish FA did not legalize professionalism until 1893 and thus refused to select the English based Professional Scots. 


Such was the Scottish F.A.’s snobbery towards professionalism that when England’s first professional – James Forrest of Blackburn Rovers - was selected to play against them in a 1-1 draw in March 1886, they insisted he wore a different colour shirt to the rest of the England side.  At the time Forrest was receiving £1 a week in wages from Blackburn Rovers.  His club however agreed not to pay him his wages for the week of this international fixture.  The two sides played out a 1-1 draw, with England leading until the Scots equalized with seven minutes to go.  This result led to England and Scotland sharing that year’s British Home International Championship (neither goal average nor goal difference used as a tie breaker at that time). 


Scots dominance however officially came to an end in March 1888, when England managed a 5-0 away win at Hampden Park – only their second win over Scotland and their first away from home.  Ironically, the victory was aided by the son of Scots parents – John Goodall – who captained the England side, as well as getting himself on the scoresheet.  Goodall also started his career north of the border with Kilmarnock Athletic.  That victory led to the first British Home International Championship which England won outright.


Twelve months on back at the Oval, England took a two goal lead in the first half.  The Scots however pulled one back with a goal from Neil Munro ten minutes into the second half.  James Oswald equalised for Scotland with eight minutes left to play and in the last minute James McLaren scored to give Scotland a 3-2 victory.  It would however run against the tide of how England v Scotland games would be heading, as throughout the 1890s England would only lose two fixtures of out of ten. This included a 4-1 away win at Hampden Park in April 1892, a 5-2 home win for England at Richmond a year later and a 3-0 win for England in April 1895 at Merseyside’s Goodison Park.


The first international in which Scotland fielded English-based professionals against England came in 1896.  Aided by players such as the star of Aston Villa’s double side Jimmy Cowan, Scotland defeated England for the first time in seven years with a 2-1 win – England’s first defeat in twenty matches.  Scotland managed back to back wins over England with another 2-1 win twelve months on at Crystal Palace, though English domination in this fixture continued until the turn of the century. 


As will be seen tomorrow, as the twentieth century dawned this fixture would come to be dominated by the professionals. However, as the crowds for the England v Scotland fixture would start to balloon, tragedy would strike at Ibrox Park early on at the start of the new century.