Google+ Followers

Monday, January 13, 2014

One Hit Wonders: Third Lanark (Scotland), 1903-04

Out of 117 championships in Scotland, Glasgow based clubs Rangers (54) and Celtic (44) won 98 of them, only leaving a few crumbles for all the other teams.  Back in 1903, Third Lanark from Glasgow was one of five clubs aiming for the Scottish title that year. The red and white’s pulled it off, and celebrated their one and only championship.

As one of the co-founders of the Scottish league, Third Lanark (founded in 1872 by an army regiment, the Third Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers) wasn’t making headlines in the 19th century. Most of the time the club finished mid table,  with a fourth place (in 1893, 1895 and 1902) as their best result. But they did win the Scottish Cup, back in 1889 beating Celtic 2-1. At the start of the twentieth century, nothing really changed. Third Lanark only managed to reach seventh place during the 1902-03 season, with James Johnstone (10 goals) and William Wardrope (7 goals) as their main goal scorers.
Although not successfully on the soccer field, 1903 was something of a turning point for the club. First the club severed their links with the military and got incorporated as a company. And just as important, they took over the stadium that Queen's Park had loaned before, and renamed it New Cathkin Park, later Cathkin Park.

New Signings

New signing Thomas McKenzie
Encouraged by these new developments, the team had bigger plans for the upcoming season. The team did have two new signings. Scottish international and prolific goal scorer John Campbell (champion with Aston Villa back in 1896 and with Celtic in 1898) came from Celtic. Teammate Hugh Wilson, at Third Lanark since 1901, had an even better reputation. He was English league champion with Sunderland in 1892, 1893 and 1895 and is considered as one of Sunderlands best players ever. The other important new face in the squad was promising young striker Thomas McKenzie. Later this season, 22-year old James Comrie (who died on the battlefield in Belgium in the First World War) made his debut in the team, but only played four league matches this season. With a great goalkeeper, James S. Raeside, and two solid defenders, Robert Barr and William McIntosh, Third Lanark probably did already have one of the best defenses of the league. In midfield Thomas P. Sloan was elementary.
And with the two new signings upfront, the club might have a chance of challenging the other clubs the upcoming season.

Vital matches against Rangers

Straight from the start of the season, five clubs were involved in the fight for the title, and Third Lanark was one of them. The others were Rangers, Celtic, reigning champion Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian. Third Lanark lost their first match away to Rangers 3-4, but did beat Hearts (2-1) and Celtic (3-1, away) in the next two rounds. Rangers just lost one point in their first seven matches. So when Third Lanark and Rangers had their return match early in the season on October 10, 1903, it was vital for the red and white’s to win. Twenty five thousand people saw them do just that, winning 1-0. And after winning their next match 2-0 against Hibernians, while Rangers only managed a 0-0 against Celtic, this was the ranking after nine league matches:
Third Lanark's outfit in
1903-04


Played
Points
Rangers
9
14
Third Lanark
9
14
Celtic
9
13
Heart of Midlothian
9
11
Hibernian
9
9

Despite their recent downfall, Rangers still was the favorite, mainly because of their enourmous scoring ability. But Third Lanark hadn’t lost a match since the two clubs met in August in the first round. And Third Lanark continued not to lose until January 16, 1904, in their 18th league match of the season (1-2 against Morton). By then, Rangers had already played 23 of their 26 matches, in which they collected 34 points. Third Lanark had five points less, but also five matches extra in hand. The other teams weren't serious contenders anymore. Hibernian was completely out of the picture, Hearts (19 matches, 26 points) and Celtic (19 matches, 28 points) still might have a small chance. Four weeks later, Hearts beat Third Lanark 4-1 at home and really got on the champions trail again. As of February 13, 1904 it promised to be an exciting finish of the season:


Played
Points
Rangers
25
36
Celtic
22
32
Third Lanark
20
31
Heart of Midlothian
22
31

Looking at the remaining fixtures, everybody at that time still expecting Third Lanark to be the next champions. They had already met every rival home and away, and were left with six matches against Port Glasgow, Airdrie, Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Dundee and Hibernian. And being the favorite didn’t paralyze the team. Quit the opposite, as Third Lanark won all their remaining matches and finished the season four points ahead of  Heart of Midlothian, who had won their last five matches.

So this is how the Scottish season finished, back in 1903-04:


P
W
D
L
Points
Goals
Third Lanark
26
20
3
3
43
61-26
Heart of Midlothian
26
18
3
5
39
63-35
Celtic
26
18
2
6
38
69-28
Rangers
26
16
6
4
38
80-33
Dundee
26
13
2
11
28
55-46
St Mirren
26
11
5
10
27
45-38
Partick Thistle
26
10
7
9
27
43-40
Queen’s Park
26
6
9
11
21
28-47
Port Glasgow Athletic
26
8
4
14
20
33-49
Hibernian
26
7
5
14
19
31-42
Morton
26
7
4
15
18
31-51
Airdrieonians
26
7
4
15
18
32-62
Motherwell
26
6
3
15
15
26-61
Kilmarnock
26
4
5
17
13
27-66


Hugh Wilson
Third Lanark did get the most points, but three clubs scored more goals. Defensively they certainly were the best team, with just 26 conceded goals and eleven matches with a clean sheet. Their biggest victory was a 8-2 trashing of Queen’s Park. The league was basically won by twelve players, with another five only participating in a few matches. Third Lanark’s best goal scorers were Thomas McKenzie, Robert Graham and good old Hugh Wilson, with eleven goals each. Which was slightly less than Alexander Bennett (Celtic), William Porteous (Hearts) and David Lindsay (St Mirren) who all scored thirteen goals. Rangers’ forward Robert C. Hamilton was in a league of his own with 28 goals.

This squad of seventeen players helped Third Lanark to become Scottish champion, for the first and last time in the club’s history:

Third Lanark 1903-04
Appearances
Goals
Scottish caps
James Smith Raeside (GK)
26
0
1 (0 goals)
John H. Cross
25
1
1 (0 goals)
William Wardrope
25
7

John Neilson
25
2

Hugh Wilson
24
11
4 (1 goal)
William McIntosh
24
0

Robert Barr
24
0

Robert Graham
24
11

Thomas P. Sloan
23
1
1 (0 goals)
John Campbell
21
6
12 (4 goals)
Thomas McKenzie
21
11

James Johnstone
17
9

James Comrie
4
1

George Archibald
1
0

Hugh Barclay
1
1

A Findlay
1
0

Thomas McMurdo
1
1



Epilogue

After this remarkable season, Third Lanark did have some good years ahead. The next season they managed third place, six points behind The Old Firm, who needed a play off to decide the league winner (Celtic won). After 1904 it took the other clubs 28 years to break the Celtic / Rangers dominion, when Motherwell won the league in 1931-32. Also, Third Lanark did win the Scottish Cup in 1905 and lost the final a year later.

Until the mid-twenties Third Lanark stayed at the highest level, and was back at it in the early sixties.  Unfortunately, Third Lanark also struck fame by their losing streak of 28 matches, starting on November 28, 1964 and, of course, leading to relegation. Two years later, in 1967, the club went bankrupt. After four years, supporters re-formed Third Lanark, and this club is playing in the Greater Glasgow Amateur League ever since.

No comments:

Post a Comment