From Texaco to the Anglo-Scottish – The Imperfect Pan-British Tournaments

It was a night when Scotland overcame England, but perhaps more notably it was an evening when a mid-table Scottish side which hadn’t won a trophy in two decades ousted the mighty Spurs with its pair of England 1970 World Cup stars, three other England internationals and habit of regularly winning big domestic and European trophies.

Tottenham really should have toyed with a Motherwell side which had laboured its way to an eleventh placed Scottish Division One finish the previous season, but on November 3rd 1970 in the inaugural Texaco Cup – an exotic pan-border trophy created to promote the American oil giant’s recent purchase of the British Regent filling station chain – the London giants were humiliated 3-1 at Fir Park to lose 5-4 on aggregate.

Bill Nicholson’s side had narrowly won the first leg 3-2 at White Hart Lane, but the closeness of the scoreline gave the Scots enough hope of recording an upset back in Lanarkshire. The Spurs stars travelled north with confidence high on the back of an eight-game undefeated run in the English First Division.

And it looked as if they would comfortably ease their way through when Jimmy Pearce headed home Martin Chivers’ long throw to break the deadlock and extend Spurs’ aggregate advantage to 4-2. That was as good as it got for the visitors. Just before the break Brian Heron raced through on goal and drove the ball beyond Jimmy Hancock in the Tottenham goal. With 15 minutes remaining Tom Donnelly fired Motherwell ahead with a long-range drive and a few minutes later Bobby Watson, the Steelmen’s captain, steered home a decisive third to send the Londoners home in a foul mood.

As this ‘Well fan notes on Fir Park Corner.com, such match-ups were like gold for the Lanarkshire side.

“That night Spurs came to Fir Park with two players who played for England in the Mexico World Cup of 1970 (Peters and Mullery), along with other internationals such as Gilzean, Chivers and Mike England. It was a night to savour. 28,000 were there to see if Motherwell could overcome a 3-2 deficit from the first leg. This task looked even more impossible when Spurs scored in the first 20 minutes, but a rousing fightback ensured a night never to be forgotten by the other 10 and 11-year-olds present.”

Having earlier seen off Stoke City in the competition, this victory took the Steelmen through to the semi-finals to meet fellow Scots side Hearts. Motherwell gained a creditable first leg draw in Edinburgh but went down 2-1 at home in the second leg. In the final Hearts faced off against Wolverhampton and the English side emerged victorious after both sides won their away legs. 

Upsets, large crowds and evenly contested games were exactly what the oil giants would’ve asked for in the first season of their sponsored competition. In that inaugural season 16 teams from England, Scotland and Ireland took part in an attempt to establish something akin to a British Cup and providing a top-class competition for sides that had missed out on qualification for European football. Games were held during European match weeks, piggy-backing successfully on the continental flavour of those nights.

The fact the competition was instigated by an oil giant signalled the beginning of wide scale sponsorship in the game. The 1969-70 season brought the English pre-season competition the Watney Cup which was initiated by the brewery of the same name. A year later Texaco’s money – £100,000 for the first campaign – was too tempting to resist, but Sports Minister Dennis Howell was insistent it ended there with the FA Cup off-limits to such benevolence.

By design the four Irish sides were paired together in the first round and those winners met in the quarter-finals, while the English and Scottish sides battled each other. The victors of this tournament within a tournament, Derry City, duly succumbed to Wolves who were far too strong for them.

Bans and Withdrawals

As successful as the tournament was in its first incarnation, cracks soon began to appear that would ultimately lead to Texaco withdrawing. In the second iteration Manchester City forfeited their £1,000 entry deposit and were banned from the cup for two seasons for fielding nine reserves against Airdrie. The Lanarkshire side unsurprisingly won the tie and proceeded on a fine run that took them all the way to the final where they lost to Derby County.

The unique selling point of the competition being pan-British was lost when the Irish clubs withdrew from the 1972-73 competition due to security concerns as the Troubles intensified, so the Cup resorted to being a Scottish and English only competition. Incidentally Welsh clubs were not invited on account of an absence of a national league at that time.

Then the tournament was hindered by the three-day week and enforced power-cuts during the 1973-74 season. With the government insisting that all matches be played in daylight, attendances naturally slumped. The final between Newcastle Utd and Burnley was hastily converted into a single match played at St James’ Park.

But there were high points too. The 1973 version delivered a dream final for the East of England: bitter rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City battled their way to a Final showdown – Ipswich by beating St Johnstone (during a glory era for the Perth side), Wolves and Newcastle; Norwich by way of Dundee, Leicester City and Motherwell.

It had already been a great season for the Suffolk side which had qualified for the UEFA Cup after finishing fourth in Division One. Such was the allure of the final, more than 65,000 people attended the two legs with the Blues coming out on top.

The following season saw a radical format overhaul but even this failed to save the struggling tournament. There was now a regional pre-season round robin stage for the English teams with Second and Third Division clubs invited to make up the numbers. The four Scottish clubs didn’t have to compete until the quarter-finals. Newcastle won their second Texaco Cup that year with a 4-0 aggregate win over Southampton. Unlike previous years when the final was held in the spring, this one was done and dusted by Christmas.

The Anglo-Scottish

Exit Texaco at pump number five and onwards for the competition now adopting a new name: the Anglo-Scottish Cup. The first tournament mirrored the last Texaco Cup format, including the bonus point awarded to teams for scoring three goals in a match. The inaugural Anglo-Scottish was lifted by Middlesbrough – the first trophy of any kind in the club’s history – by defeating Fulham 1-0 over two-legs.

And yet it was clear that some teams were taking the competition more seriously than others. During the 1976-77 season Newcastle were kicked out for fielding a weakened side against Ayr United and fined £4,000 by the Football League. Unsurprisingly the Scottish clubs showed remarkable commitment to the competition; here after all was an opportunity to show their supposed betters that Scottish football was the equal of English. But commitment and passion can only take you so far and the trophy, in either of its guises, was only won once by a team from north of the border.

That solitary victory came as the quality of the English participants subsided. In the 1979-80 season only two of the 16 English teams involved were from the First Division and six were drawn from the third tier. Scotland meanwhile supplied six of its Premier League sides. The strongest of those was St Mirren which led by the likes of Doug Somner and Billy Stark finished third in the league to gain an unlikely place in Europe. The Buddies comprehensively defeated Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Utd on the way to overcoming First Division Bristol City in the final, in doing so reversing the result of the 1977 final.

But the competition’s days were numbered and the fact that Third Division Chesterfield could be the last English club standing in the 1980-81 iteration compounded the theory that the trophy had been diminished beyond all recognition. The Spireites were only playing because Sunderland withdrew on the eve of the tournament, but punched well above its modest standing nonetheless and recorded an infamous win on its march to the 1981 title.

The Derbyshire side held Glasgow Rangers to an excellent 1-1 draw at Ibrox, but it was still expected that the Gers would move up a gear and overcome their lowly opponents in the return at Saltergate. The Chesterfield blog ‘Sky is Blue, Clouds are White’ recalls the arrogance of the then Gers manager John Greig and the Scottish media.

“In the press he was confident to the extent of a patronising arrogance. He described Colin Tartt as the worst full-back in Europe. What the condescending Scottish press did not realise was that this was probably the best Chesterfield side in the last 40 years and that it was playing at its peak.”

Rangers were no longer the powerhouse they once had been, but were still strong enough to win domestic cups during the so-called New Firm era of the late 70s and early 80s. This would rank among their worst-ever evenings as the blog gleefully retells.

“The several thousand Scottish fans present saw Rangers humiliated. Phil Bonnyman, born in Glasgow and released by the Rangers, hit a brace while Ernie Moss got the third.”

In the final the Spireites faced a Notts County side containing Scottish international Don Masson, former Arsenal star Eddie Kelly and 17-year-old Brian Kilcline. Both won their home legs 1-0 and in extra-time sub Alan Crawford back-heeled the ball past the County goalkeeper for Chesterfield’s winner.

Our wistful writer on Sky is Blue celebrated it like they had gained a place in Europe.

“I do not remember what the Derbyshire Times made of the match but The Chesterfield Star had a great write-up.  I was 18 and about to leave home, this match meant a lot to me.”

While this was a fairytale come true, it was also a bi-product of the lack of big names. The Scottish teams withdrew afterwards claiming the English teams weren’t taking it seriously enough and the competition was wound up.

Resurrection Attempt

A few years later in 1987 there was a curious attempt to partially resurrect it with a two-legged tie between the winners of the respective nations Cups: St Mirren and Coventry City. Both clubs had good reason to contest the Anglo-Scottish Challenge Cup – St Mirren had that fine record in the Anglo-Scottish while Coventry were denied a place in the European Cup Winners’ Cup that season due to the universal ban on English clubs.

But without sponsorship there were always going to be financial issues. Holding the first leg at Highfield Road just a few days before Christmas of 1987 was perhaps not the wisest choice of dates. Just over 5,000 people braved the cold for a first leg which ended in stalemate: David Phillips’ first-half strike was cancelled out by Kenny McDowell’s reply on the hour mark. The second leg was due to be played at Love Street on the 22nd of March, but with the first leg proving so underwhelming it simply never took place.

There were other muted attempts at some form of competition between the best teams of England and Scotland around that time, notably the Dubai Super Cup which took place in December 1986 in the Gulf with Scottish champions Celtic taking on English counterparts Liverpool, the Merseyside club winning on penalties.

“The first-half was a rather hum-drum affair, devoid of real talking points and even the Anglo-Scottish factor rivalry couldn’t raise excitement levels too high,” recalls CelticWiki.

The following year Rangers beat Everton on penalties to win the trophy, a method for deciding the game that would have not been necessary had Welsh whistler Keith Cooper not curiously disallowed no fewer than half a dozen Rangers goals during the game. Celtic and Liverpool met again, in April 1989, for the renamed Dubai Champions Cup, which again went to spot kicks and was won this time by Celtic.

That was the last of such competitions, but there is regular chatter of the respective League Cups being ditched for one trophy being contested by both Scottish and English sides. But that appears to be nothing more than talk at this stage.

The Scottish Challenge Cup – which has experienced regular name changes with the sponsorship of Irn Bru and most recently Tunnock’s – has mutated from an easy-to-follow cup featuring Scottish clubs from outside the top flight into one that includes, almost on an annual basis, teams from Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and most recently English non-league football.

That may be the closest we will see to resurrecting the Battle of Britain out with the occasional European ties such as the 2018 Europa League qualifying tie between Burnley and Aberdeen.

CRAIG STEPHEN

Texaco Cup Winners

1971: Wolves

1972: Derby County

1973: Ipswich Town

1974: Newcastle Utd

1975: Newcastle Utd

Anglo-Scottish Cup Winners

1976: Middlesbrough

1977: Nottingham Forest

1978: Bristol City

1979: Burnley

1980: St Mirren

1981: Chesterfield

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