1888 19th May Renton v WBA Cathkin Park

In many ways, this was of the last gasps of the Old Order in Scotland. Founded in 1872 (what a year that was), the boys from the Vale had to fight it out for the title of best team in East Dunbartonshire, let alone best in Scotland. I will not get into an argument about whether or not it was a ‘World Championship’ as with the previous year’s game between Hibernian and Preston North End.

The 1880s were a time for unofficial Championship of the world type contests between Scots and English teams. The respective national cup winners, in the absence of a league system. The following year would see this happening, as William McGregor of Braco, in Perthshire, founded the English Football League. Renton’s problems were about to become terminal, though they did not fully realise it. Scotch Professors had been going down to England since the 1870s and getting paid. However, it was all underhand and illegal, in footballing terms. With the legalisation of a limited form of professionalism in 1885, in England this would be one of the last games where a club from a non-urban area, could duke it out with the new Big Boys.

The match took place at the Second Hampden, in a thunderstorm. Four people were killed by it (not at the game!). 6,000 people watched a match that West Bromwich Albion had not wanted to go ahead. Renton were a very handy team. Seven of them would win caps, in 1888. Of great interest is Johnny Campbell (1870-1906). He would be spirited away to Sunderland in 1890, where he would win another ‘World Championship’ against Hearts, in 1895 and three League medals. He was top scorer in 1892, 93 and 94 - the three Champion years. It is not difficult to see why Sunderland, founded by a Scot: James Allan, would have made sure that Campbell was persuaded to join them.

The game was won 4-1 by Renton. Possibly not a surprise, if the other team were wary of playing in a death-dealing storm. Renton beat Preston North End 2-0 two weeks later, so their strength was real, given that this was the start of the Invincibles Double Winning season for PNE.

In that picture is Andrew Hannah, who joined WBA in 1888 but could not settle and moved to Everton. He played for Liverpool in the Team of the Macs. Money was now king. Even closer to home, James Kelly and Neil McCallum were snapped up by the new kids on the block: Celtic. Bob Kelso went to Newcastle and then Everton in 1888. Harry Campbell went to Blackburn Rovers. John Lindsay moved to Accrington but returned to Renton after four years.

Money killed many of the teams of the Scotch Professors, but then created a new wave of Clubs in the industrial cities of Scotland. Celtic did not exist until November 1887 but, within a few years were one of the biggest teams in the world. Renton resigned from the League after four games in 1897 and died in 1922.


Giving History a Sporting Chance