We’re publishing a regular Glasgow series on BTLM with a range of posts dedicated to the city’s rich footballing history. Although the Old Firm will always cast a long shadow over any discussion about Scottish, yet alone Glasgow football, our series will try to focus more on the historical contributions the ‘other’ grand Glasgow clubs – Partick Thistle, Clyde, Queen’s Park and the sadly defunct Third Lanark – have made to the Scottish game’s rich tapestry.
The liquidation of Glasgow Rangers and the club’s enforced reboot in the basement of the Scottish League has been an unpleasant and messy affair for the Scottish game as a whole. Trying to extract positives from the unseemly business isn’t easy, but during this most unlikely of seasons in the Scottish bottom tier, BTLM has at least has been able to take some nostalgic pleasure from the rediscovery of great old Glasgow League derbies we thought were lost forever.
At the turn of the year Rangers travelled the short distance across the city to play a League match against Queen’s Park at Hampden. This historic fixture was once known as the original Glasgow derby and is one of the oldest in the world, the sides first playing in an 1875 friendly to raise money for the victims of a huge fire in Bridgeton that had claimed many lives. The first competitive fixture between the sides was a Scottish Cup tie in March 1879, this a full nine years before Celtic even came into existence.
This 2012 meeting became a real talking point as it was the first time these clubs had met in the League since 1958. A 30,000 plus crowd (the first five-figure attendance Queen’s Park had hosted for 29 years), a great atmosphere and a hard-fought encounter won at the death by the visitors all contributed to a game that did justice to the occasion. Similarly, we’ve welcomed back this season the resurrection of the Rangers v Clyde derby for the first time since 1975. Clyde might be exiled in Cumbernauld these days, but they will always remain a Glasgow club in spirit and their battling performance against Rangers back in October reflected the enduring significance of this 132-year-old local rivalry.
These games have been a poignant hark back to better times for the game in Glasgow, an era when derbies like these were commonplace and the city’s smaller clubs competed on something approaching more equal terms with the Old Firm.
Sure, they might always have been underdogs, but they were still underdogs with teeth who were more than capable of transcending their limitations and bloodying the noses of their big neighbours. Just ask Celtic: within the space of just five post-war seasons they were on the wrong end of a series of terrible derby defeats that included losing 5-2 at home to Partick Thistle, 6-3 at home to Clyde and 5-1 away at Third Lanark.
The temporary media glare turned on Queen’s Park and Clyde as a byproduct of Rangers’ unusual situation is welcome and long overdue regardless of how it came about, but it’s a real shame that all Glasgow’s grand little clubs have generally become something of a Scottish footballing footnote. The quartet have fine histories reflected in the 18 major trophy wins they’ve accrued between them, the same number as Aberdeen, Scotland’s third most successful club. The problem is that you have to go back to 1971 for the most recent non-Old Firm Glaswegian success, four and a half decades in which these clubs have come to be seen increasingly as relics of a different and lost age.
Sepia-tinged nostalgic derby reminiscing apart, there have been better days than these for Glasgow football with the 2012-13 season set to be remembered as statistically the worst ever for the city’s teams in League history. Celtic will undoubtedly end up as Scottish champions and, at time of writing, Partick Thistle are in the running for promotion to the SPL, yet the average aggregate placings for the city’s sides are dragged down because of the three Glasgow clubs marooned in the bottom division. Even Rangers romping away with this League still makes them statistically no better than the 33rd best team in Scotland after all.
If this is the worst-ever season for Glasgow clubs, BTLM started wondering when Glaswegian football was collectively at its best. When exactly were those halcyon days when the city’s clubs were at the peak of their influence and when the outcomes of Glaswegian derbies were most crucial in determining where the silverware ended up?
This is something we’ll be covering in our next Glasgow post as we highlight a number of landmark years that were significant to the game within the city’s borders. In the meantime we have started a Wee Glasgow On Film page with a collection of great vintage footage featuring the non-Old Firm Glasgow clubs.