1st international Football Match - Scotland V England
Scotland versus England: it is the Big One. For the Scots it brings back fond memories of a Wembley weekend, the long train journey to London with a bag full of refreshments, and a cooling frolic in Sir Edwin Lutyen’s fountains before and after the match. For the English, victory would probably be the enduring memory. Oh, and puzzlement at this feral herd of invaders from North Of The Border, bedecked in tartan and brimming with the intent of taking the goalposts (and some of the pitch) home – well, it was probably the most effective defensive strategy the Scots could employ.
The fixture would inevitably be marred by violence and put on semi-permanent hiatus – calls for it to be reinstated are met with enthusiasm, and then the pessimistic forecast of the police and MPs who believe it would descend into some ad-hoc cross-border conflict. It’s enough to make any football fan pine for those days when football was an innocent pursuit, free from the hatred that juices the big fixtures, free from the tyranny of replica kits, free from sponsorship, and when cynicism amongst clubs, players and fans was yet to be seeded in the hyper-capitalist creed of the modern day game. Then perhaps these misty-eyed romanticists should try to seek out a VHS copy of the first meeting between the two old foes. Of course, this was back in 1872, so perhaps some archived cinefilm footage may be their best chance chance of catching the action – don’t even think about YouTube. Back then, Association Football was very much in its infancy.
Football boots were the sort of sturdy efforts that could do a day’s work down the pit before taking to the pitch – and they were brown. The ball was heavier than Gordon Brown’s heart when the paperboy arrives, and the strips were quaint uniforms with nary a man-made fibre between them. Indeed, red cowls and dark blue caps were worn by the Scottish and English team respectively.
There had been matches between Scotland and England before, but none were particularly organised; none as official as that of their international debut proper, on a foggy day before 4,000 spectators that had descended upon Hamilton Cricket Club. The Scotland side was culled from the leading club of the day – Queens Park FC. This was pre-Old Firm, a full 16 years before Celtic were formed. England’s side, chosen by FA Secretary Charles Alcock, and were a more cosmopolitan bunch; with players from Oxford University (clearly, the boys that couldn’t row), Hertfordshire Rangers, Notts County , Harrow Chequers, Cambridge
University, Wednesday FC , and those giants of world football Barnes and First Surrey Rifles.
So no preening Premier League players, no Old Firm call-offs, and unfortunately no goals. Quite how the match ended as a no scoring draw is anyone’s guess. Scotland played a 2-2-6 formation, which was made to look positively negative in the face of England’s cavalier 1-2-7. Thirteen strikers and no goals, what would Alan Hansen say?
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