Scotland vs. England: How Glasgow gave the world International Football and so much more
es“Football’s coming home” sang Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds as England prepared to host Euro 96, now over twenty years ago (aye you are that auld!)
On Saturday (10th June), as football’s auldest “enemies” prepare to do battle once more, international football really is coming home – to Glasgow. [WE’RE NOT ACTUAL ENEMIES OF COURSE, THIS IS JUST A BIT OF BANTER, AFTER ALL WE ARE UNITED OFF THE FIELD-ALWAYS! ESPECIALLY AFTER THE EVENTS OF RECENT WEEKS 🙁 ]
On St. Andrew’s Day 1872, Scotland, represented entirely by members of Glasgow’s Queen’s Park, took on England in the first ever official international match right here in Glasgow – making our wonderful city the birthplace of international football. Hampden has seen its fair share of historical nights down the years, but the biggest spot of international football history in Glasgow is to be found in the west end, at a site you’ve possibly never visited.
Hamilton Crescent, the home of West of Scotland Cricket Club, on Peel Street in Partick has the honour of calling itself the conception site of the international game, with over 4000 paying spectators intrigued by the inaugural national match-up.
“There had been five unofficial internationals played in London between English players and Scottish players, organised by the (English) FA who picked both teams, with it mostly Scots based in London selected to play”, Richard McBrearty, Scottish Football Museum curator, told Glasgow Living.
“Charles W. Alcock, Secretary of the Football Association, wrote to Scottish newspapers in 1870 challenging Scotland to provide players for an international match.
“By 1872 The Queen’s Park Club was in a position to provide the opposition for a match against England and the game was confirmed from there.”
Even though the match ended goallessly, the crowds were soon flocking to watch association football. Because this particular match didn’t just give birth to international football, meaning we get amazing events like the World Cup, it changed the face of football forever, setting it on the road to becoming the beautiful game loved all around the world.
“The original form of football, as it started in London, was about individual prowess. It wouldn’t have been pretty to watch but probably quite fun to play”, says Richard.
“Players got possession of the ball and ran with it, using both skill and brawn to charge through opponents with a pack of forwards backing up the play – a bit like you’d see in rugby.
“Occasionally there would be passes but it wasn’t a systematic type of play. Queen’s Park changed that, moving to a short passing style.
“Queen’s Park took that style from Glasgow and taught it around the country, helping Scotland go on to dominate the early days of international football.
“Scotland playing England captured the imagination, allowing football to establish standard rules and grow in popularity as the Scottish style made the game beautiful to watch.”
So what role did Glasgow play in all of this? Well, almost everything.
“The cumulative weight of players was very important to the early game of football, where strength was so important. The England team from that first international were from wealthy, aristocratic backgrounds, being well fed and well bred”, explains Richard.
Scottish football museum statue depicting action from the inaugural International, based on a contemporary artists’ view of the game.
“Football had become popular in Scotland amongst working class communities. Glasgow at the time was a very industrial city and the players were consequently not as big, strong or fast as their English opponents.
“Matching them man-for-man was unlikely to be successful so preparing to play a different way, passing in combination, was essential to Scotland gaining a draw when most people expected the result to go strongly in England’s favour.”
So there you have it: Glasgow was not only the birthplace of international football but the famous ‘Glasgow effect’ also inspired the team based, flowing and beautiful game which became loved by so many the Earth over.
So as you prepare to cheer on your club team and country in their next fixture give thanks to Glasgow for making it all possible.
You’re welcome world!
To see more of the first ever international fixture, as well as the growth of the beautiful game in Glasgow and beyond, visit the city’s fantastic Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park which is open all year round.
***All images by Alistair Sargent***