Scotland v England

150th Anniversary Heritage Challenge Match

Tues 12th September 2023

Hampden Park, Glasgow

FT: 1-3

Attendance: 49,500

It is, in some ways a territory unexplored to any great detail. Take a look across Europe however, and the origins of football are intertwined with cricket.

Take the example of Italy.

AC Milan was founded as Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club in 1899 by an English expatriate. Genoa meanwhile were founded on 7 September 1893 as Genoa Cricket & Athletic Club. Its earliest sporting years were principally dedicated to competition in athletics and cricket rather than football. 

Association football was a secondary concern for those involved with the club.

It is now widely noted that the Victorian era in England saw the growth of football as the people’s game.

Organised football dates from that time however, has roots not on the factory floor but in the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, in London. An exclusive environment not accessible to the masses.

Football in its very early years was not dramatic or even widespread in terms of watching and participation.

Membership of a clubs was small and exclusive and the motivations, ambitions and intentions behind the game were honourable and conduct focused. Like in cricket the early football administrators were also cricketers, umpires, football referees and cricket club committee members.

Early football matches were jolly affairs, played with spirit and more than often pleasant affairs both during and afterwards.

Between 1872 and 1907 Mr Charles Alcock served as FA secretary but was also secretary of Surrey County Cricket Club.

From that it is not too difficult to detect as to why the first official International football matches were played at Cricket Grounds. In 1872 Alcock’s was behind the statement:

To further the interests of the Association in Scotland, it was decided that during the current season, a team should be sent to Glasgow to play a match versus Scotland ‘.

The captain of England that day was Cuthbert Ottoway a man more noted for playing cricket. The referee (or the umpire as it was then) was Mr Charles Alcock who might have even played had it not been for injury.

In the case of the London venue, the England v Scotland International of 1874 was played at the Kennington Oval still to this day of the most famous cricket pitches in the world.

In November 1872 a group of men gathered in the West of Glasgow at a cricket field on Hamilton Crescent in the west of the city. What happened was the first ever officially recognised football match.

Originally the game was going to be played at Burnbank, a recreational park near present day Woodlands Drive. But the Scots, resplendent in blue woollen shirts so carefully embroidered with a red lion rampant, eventually turned out at Hamilton Crescent a venue which had echos of the London Kennington Oval where previous unofficial fixtures had been played.

By 1872 long distance travel was feasible and the aim for the players on arrival were simple, chief amongst them:

A goal will be scored when it is kicked under the tape, the ball not being allowed to be carried, thrown, or knocked in‘.

Back then the media (print newspapers) had to explain the rules – some things never change you might say.

Hamilton Crescent was set up by its members to be Scotland’s version of Lords.

A place where Scotland could establish its own version of the MCC and attract the finest cricketers from a game that was spreading in interest across the Empire.

But this venue in Glasgow has a significant place in football history for two reasons.

Firstly, it hosted that first ever Scotland v. England international in 1872. The West of Scotland Cricket Club then hosted follow on football internationals in 1874 and 1876 both of which the Scotland team won by 2-1 and 3-0 respectively.

The Scottish Cup Final was also contested here on four occasions in the 1870’s.

As Scotland and England prepared to meet for the 115th time the challenge of the fixture has changed little from what happened back in 1872 in Glasgow.

Indeed, you might call this the derby of all derby matches – the footballing rivalry that comes before all others.

And while the roots of this derby are irreversibly interlocked with cricket given the choice of venue in 1872 the current international is as far away from the modern game of cricket than ever.

The participants of 1872 were Oxford or Cambridge University Graduates. In the case of Charles W Alcock he was a former Harrow public schoolboy.

Today, players of both England and Scotland are predominantly working class at least by birth if not in terms of present day disposable income and holding. Harry Kane may well be worth £90 million and a FC Bayern superstar but he started out as just your average working class Secondary school boy.

The first match was initially scheduled for a 2 pm kick off but tonight’s, like most evening matches, started at 19.45 pm.

About 4,000 spectators back in 1872 paid an entry fee of a shilling. Weighing 5.65 grams it was silver and had on one side an image of Queen Victoria the reigning monarch. The same 50,000 fans today paid anything between £30 and £50 for a ticket.

Unluckily for those who watched on in 1872 they never managed to see a goal. In contrast in September 2023 the near 50,000 in attendance were treated to four goals.

Two of the England goals were scored by men whose worth may well be in excess of a present day £200 million – Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham. Throw in the value of the goalscorer Phil Foden and you may well be looking at a grand total of £250 million just for the three of them.

Scotland in fairness did make a fight of it as they always do if only for short periods of the game.

Back in 1872 the crowd were reported to have enjoyed a competitive fixture that was described as being “vigorously contested” and “as spirited and as pleasant as can possibly be imagined”.

The atmosphere on this occasion opened with fireworks but quickly turned into the feel of a competitive challenge match that the majority of the crowd knew it was.

In truth, across the 150 years of playing each other there has never really been much between the two nations.

Across various decades of time, Scotland have edged out their English counterparts and likewise there have been periods when England held the upper-hand. If the 1960’s were England’s time so the 1970’s was a decade when Scotland enjoyed perhaps its greatest win at least in London.

Spoils have been shared on numerous occasions both in the formative years of the international game, and more recently in both finals tournaments (UEFA Euro 2020) and in WC qualification matches.

England won on this occasion and congratulations to them. But we will meet again – maybe sooner than both these neighbouring rivals think.