Football History in Glasgow Southside

The Southside of Glasgow is fundamentally important for the history of the game of football (soccer). The Scottish Football Association is the second oldest in the world, after England’s. This is one reason there’s no unified UK team like there is in, say, Athletics. Glasgow Southside is where the association was founded, and where the oldest surviving club still play. And Glasgow, along with Sheffield in Yorkshire, was at the forefront of creating a unified code for the sport. Even to this day the area is an important hotbed for the game, being the home of Scotland’s National Stadium.

Where was the SFA founded

Despite, or perhaps because, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) is the second oldest in the world, surviving details on its early days are surprisingly thin. Even the vaguest details were only discovered in the late 2010s in a forgotten archive.

Seven clubs founded the SFA on 13 March 1873, in a meeting at a place called Dewar’s Hotel. This seems to have been at 11 Bridge Street, the address of which matches that of an Indian Restaurant up the A77 just south of the Clyde, most of the building of which doesn’t look that old. I don’t have a picture of it.

Of those seven clubs, five (Queen’s Park, Clydesdale, Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, Dumbreck, and Granville) played in Southside, within a couple of miles of each other. The first two clubs mentioned provided the majority of the finance and admin staff. Of the other two clubs, Eastern FC played in the East End of Glasgow, not far from where Celtic Park is now, while Vale of Leven played in Alexandria, in the far northwest of the Glasgow area, between Dumbarton and Loch Lomond. Note that only Queen’s Park still exist. Indeed most of the others (with the notable exception of Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers) had dissolved by even the turn of the 20th Century. An eighth club, Kilmarnock FC, who do also still exist, sent a letter of support, presumably because all the others were Glasgow-based and Kilmarnock was, at that time, a bit of a trek.

Who were Clydesdale Football Club?

Although they’d dissolved by 1881, Clydesdale FC are a notable team for two reasons. As well as being founder members of the SFA, they made the second largest donation to fund the original Scottish Cup, one of the oldest football competitions still in operation. In addition, one of their members, Archibald Campbell, which, let’s face it, is about a Scottish a name as you can get before resorting to stereotypes, became the SFA’s first chairman. They were also the losing side in the first ever Scottish Cup Final.

A silver tropy sits inside a perspex cabinet.
The original Scottish Cup, on display in the Scottish Football Museum.
It may surprise you to know the club still exists. Although their footballing side was short-lived, they were formed (like many football sides) from a cricket team who wanted something to do during the winter. Clydesdale Cricket Club are, I believe, the oldest sporting club of any kind still playing in Glasgow, having been founded as long ago as 1848. Their current ground, Titwood Cricket Ground, between Crossmyloof and Maxwell Park railway stations in the west of Glasgow Southside, is one of the venues used for Scottish first-class cricket matches. When they’re not rained off.

Several people are playing cricket in a field. There are houses in the distance behind.
Titwood Cricket Ground, with a game in session.

Who are Queen’s Park Football Club?

Queen’s Park FC are the oldest football club in Scotland and the tenth oldest in the world. They were founded on 9 July 1867, at a flat called “No. 3 Eglinton Terrace”. This address no longer exists due to renumbering but the site exists, it’s now a flat above the Victoria pub on Victoria Road not far from Queen’s Park station – a small doorway into a grade B listed building (though not listed for that reason) with no indication this is where Scottish football kinda started.

A four-storey tenement block with a pub at the ground level, called the Victoria, stands at a crossroads.
Apparently, 3 Eglinton Terrace, or rather, the door on the far left, just before the shuttered shop, is.
Their first match, and thus the first official game of football played in Scotland, was played in June 1868, against a team called Thistle FC, who didn’t even last until the foundation of the SFA – many of their players and staff joined Eastern FC after Thistle FC’s dissolvement. The match was played at the Queen’s Park Recreation Ground, to the east of Queen’s Park itself, and people still play sport here today, though it’s very much more a place for training than for competition. Queen’s Park won 2-0.

Shot overlooking a large plain grassy park, taken from up a small incline. There's a path just visible crossing from left to right, trees at the far end of the park, and tenements behind.
Part of Queen’s Park Recreation Ground. I’ve often seen sports teams do fitness training here, as well as kids kicking a ball about.
Queen’s Park FC themselves are notable for remaining a resolutely amateur side until 2019, despite playing often in the upper echelons of a professional league system. This may say more about Scottish football than about the club’s principles. They play in a black-white striped kit, and are therefore not to be confused with Queen’s Park Rangers FC, who have a blue-white striped kit. And play in London. As an aside, given Queen’s Park FC’s forays into the English FA Cup (reaching the final twice, losing to Blackburn Rovers both times) I did try to search if the two sides had ever played each other. Given that there’s *also* a club in Scotland called, simply, ‘Rangers’, you can imagine how fraught that websearch was.

That they were the dominant side of the time, and the only surviving member of the founders of the SFA, seems to have been largely because they dominated the SFA at the time, and indeed were the premier club in Scotland. They provided the entire Scottish team for the first ever International match (30 November 1872, at Hamilton Crescent in Partick, now also a cricket ground). In addition, despite having won the Scottish Cup ten times (the third highest), the most recent of these was in 1893.

They also no longer play in the suburb of Queen’s Park, but rather moved first to nearby Crosshill, then to Mount Florida slightly further south. Both times they played at venues called Hampden Park. There have been four Hampden Parks in total. Sort of.

Where were the first Hampden Parks?

In 1873 Queen’s Park FC moved the short distance from the Queen’s Park Recreation Ground to a park they called Hampden Park, after a nearby road. This is in the suburb of Crosshill, which, at the time, was home to two of the other founder members of the SFA – Granville FC and the long-named Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers. The latter club were formed from the army regiment of the same name, whose HQ was Drill Hall, in nearby Govanhill. Granville FC had ceased playing in April 1874, but Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers FC lasted much longer.

Shot from higher ground of a double-track railway line, behind which is a long, short building advertising itself on the roof as 'Hampden Bowling Club' but then several painted figures and the words 'Scotland 5 England 1'.
The site of the First Hampden Park. The building is believed to be original.
This first Hampden Park stadium was located a couple of blocks south of what became Crosshill Station. This is believed to be the first football stadium in the UK (and by inference, the world) which was enclosed and accessed via turnstiles rather than being open-sided to all-comers. It was also used for international matches between Scotland and both England and Wales.

In 1883, however, a railway line in Southside called the Cathcart Circle was built and the tracks south of Crosshill station were planned to run pretty much through the site of the stadium. Queen’s Park FC simply crossed to the other side of the main Cathcart Road to a new stadium. This they again called ‘Hampden Park’ (or ‘Second Hampden’), and lay just south of Myrtle Park, the old home of Granville FC, which is now the Holyrood Sports Centre, with artificial pitches etc.

A small park with shrubbery lies in front of a bowling green. It's a bit hudden by greenery. Behind, the land rises and contains tenement blocks.
The original Hampden Park site from the front. The park in front seems to be private resident gardens.
The old original Hampden Park stadium is now partly occupied by a bowling green, and there are murals and information boards around it explaining its part in early football history.

The Second Hampden Park was renamed New Cathkin Park in 1903, and sort of still exists.

What is Cathkin Park?

There have been two grounds called Cathkin Park, both used by Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers FC. There is nothing left of the first one – it was vacated in 1903 and it’s now a housing estate, just NE of Crosshill station around a street called Holybrook Street.

In 1903 Queen’s Park FC built a new stadium in Mount Florida, to the south, and, keeping with their naming convention, they called it (Third) Hampden Park. This left their second stadium empty, and Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers FC decided to move in – it was about 600m to the south, had better facilities and was in a better location. They renamed it ‘New Cathkin Park’, and after cutting ties with their old army corps, renamed themselves to the much shorter Third Lanark FC.

A red long-sleeved football jersey with white trim is on display inside a perspex box.
A Third Lanark football top, as displayed in the Scottish Football Museum.
Third Lanark FC stayed at Cathkin Park (the ‘New’ was dropped over time) until they dissolved in 1967. As is sadly not unique amongst lower-league clubs at times, they went bust through financial irregularity and a dodgy chairman who seemed to profit from selling the ground for housing. He may have wanted to move the club to one of the New Towns outwith Glasgow; cf Clyde FC and Wimbledon FC). He died of a convenient heart attack before he could be sentenced, but other directors were charged and fined with corruption.

A flat piece of lawn with faded pitch markings on it. Surrounding the pitch the land rises in banked structure, but trees block part of it so it'd be impossible to walk around the banking.
Overview of Cathkin Park. You can make out the terracing in the background and see how the trees have taken over.
Except. Planning permission was refused. So while the original Hampden and Cathkin Parks no longer exist, this ‘Second Hampden’ / ‘New Cathkin’ Park still does, and is used mainly these days by amateur footballers, and dog-walkers. The terracing around the pitch still exists, at least on three sides, despite having trees growing through it, and it feels eerie to stand on it and watch people kick a ball around, almost like you’re in somewhere that should be fenced off for dereliction. It looks overgrown and unloved, but really it’s used more-or-less like a standard park, just one with an unusual setting. It also feels weird to be walking on a pitch that within living memory hosted a decent standard of Scottish league football – they were in the top flight as recently as 1965.

Terracing with metal barriers, the stone floor overgrown with weeds, The terracing slopes to a grassy pitch with a small wall in front. On the right, the run of the terracing is blocked by large bushy trees.
View from the terraces looking out at the pitch.
More recently, a small footballing academy, the Jimmy Johnstone Academy (named after one of the players in the Celtic side who won the European Cup in 1967) has set up a base in a portakabin at Cathkin Park. They run a couple of youth teams, and a number of community activities including dementia support, refugee outreach, and a means for people do do community service rather than serve time in prison.

What is Hampden Park?

Hampden Park is Scotland’s National Football Stadium. Or, more precisely, it’s the Third Hampden Park, built in what was then open land and inconveniently on top of a small stream (Mall’s Mire) that runs into the nearby White Cart Water – the main river of the area. This came to light in a football match in early 2023 when after a short torrential shower just before kick-off, the pitch pretty much flooded. The match was delayed for an hour while they tried to dry the pitch, mind you they stopped it just after Scotland scored, which their opposition, Georgia, were unimpressed with.

This Hampden Park was constructed in 1903, and is still used today, albeit it’s been renovated and rebuilt. One plan to completely rebuild it in time for a potential Men’s Football World Cup bid in 2030 has been put on hold, so sadly it won’t look flash and won’t have a retractable roof in the near future after all.

A car park, beyond which is a stone staircase leading up to a building. On either side of the portico are huge pictures of Scottish footballers and, to the sides of those, two large rounded columns/towers.
The entrance to Hampden Park, the actual current one.
As it currently stands, the capacity for sport is just over 51,000 (lower when they use it for athletics, but higher when there are concerts – Coldplay played here in 2022 and seemed to have had 100,000 or so spectators. The ground does hold some sporting attendance records though that are unlikely to be beaten: 136,000 people watched Glasgow club Celtic play in the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1970 (against English club Leeds United, which may have helped), the highest ever for any UEFA competition; just over 149,000 people watched Scotland beat England 3-1, the highest ever European international attendance; and only venues in South America have had larger attendances for club football matches than the 1937 Scottish Cup Final (about 147,000 people).

View inside an empty sports stadium, looking across the pitch to a stand where the seating spells out the word 'Hampden'.
The view inside Hampden Park that the players would see walking out.
Note when Queen’s Park FC were in the fourth tier of Scottish Football, they had attendances just about pushing the one thousand barrier – indeed in 2013 they hosted Montrose in a match seen by 325 people. Despite being home of Scottish Football, Queen’s Park still owned the stadium until as recently as the Pandemic, when they finally decided to sell up to the Scottish FA and revamp their training ground to make that their new stadium. Which lies right next door and is called Hampden Park. Obviously. Well it’s called *Little* Hampden, rather than Hampden Park The Fourth, but still. My understanding is the 2023-24 season is the last Queen’s Park FC will play in (the Third) Hampden Park, so I took the opportunity to watch a match there that year. It was a league game against Partick Thistle, in Scotland’s second tier league, and the attendance was 2,894. Or just over 5% capacity. Only one side of the ground is open to fans; the home fans being in front of the left half of the pitch and the away fans being in front of the right half. Despite most of the stadium being empty, it was quite a loud atmosphere, possibly because it’s a Glasgow derby. It finished 2-2, by the way.

View inside a stadium under construction; the pitch is present but the stands are still being built. Aside from the framework of a small one to the left side, there is just banks of soil. There are tenements and a church behind.
Little Hampden, as of October 2022. The bigger Hampden Park is off to the right, about an effective distance of two pictures away.
The streets in the immediate vicinity are lined with standard Glaswegian tenement blocks and to this day I don’t know if that’s a brilliant place to live or an awful one. Maybe it helps if you like Coldplay and lower-league football. I don’t know.

What is the Scottish Football Museum?

Hampden Park also hosts the Scottish Football Museum, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and despite Scotland not being exactly a world power in the game, is definitely worth the trip. Touted as ‘Europe’s First Football Museum’, it includes exhibitions on the history of the game up here, including a part on Women’s Football, and a tour of the stadium itself. The museum has lots of artefacts from the early days of Scottish football (including the first Scottish Cup, paid for by Queen’s Park FC), and several dioramas, as well as a ‘Hall of Fame’ with portraits of lots of significant figures in the Scottish game.

Behind a perspex screen are twenty-two different football shirts laid out in three rows.
A selection of football shirts from teams playing in the Scottish Football League. Queen’s Park are centre on the back row, the one with the black/white stripes.
Although used as a venue for parties (and I had my 3rd Covid booster jab here), you can only visit the stadium proper itself on a tour, which you have to book in advance, but there’s several tours scheduled a day and the only time you’ll have difficulty is when they close up the venue in preparation for a concert or something; I visited on the last day before a 10-day shutdown to prepare for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to perform.

A plain dressing room, with football shirts on several of the lockers.
The Away Dressing Room at Hampden Park. The shirts represent their feeling of the best international players in each position to have used this dressing room.
The tour takes you into the home and away dressing rooms, the warm-up facilities, and through the tunnel onto the pitch, before sitting near the pressbox and the dugouts to savour the (empty) atmosphere. Inside the stadium you can also see ‘how fast can you kick a ball into a net’; professional footballers (in the men’s and women’s game) can manage around 50-70 mph. Reader, I … did not.

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