Ants Weekly with Stephen Russell

Hello again Ants, I hope you enjoyed your New Year celebrations and are sticking to your resolutions! This week I’ve decided to talk about something a little more light-hearted than some of my prior pieces and explore the history of football in Scotland.

This history can date back as far as the origins of the game itself. While the English are credited for the inception of ‘association football’ (which, interestingly, the word soccer is derived from), it was actually the Scottish who adapted it into the sport we know today. The earliest references do show that the first football ruleset was established in London in 1863 but the game described is more similar to rugby than it is to our modern game. The ball was allowed to be held and no rules obstructed the players from tripping, kicking or holding one another.

Four years later, in 1867, a group of men gathered in Queen’s Park in Glasgow to modify the English regulations. In an almost revolutionary manner, they conceived the notion of passing and dribbling as we know it today. This set the precedent for over 150 beautiful years of football – regardless of which association came first.

The Scottish division became official in 1893 and thus became professional. A second division was added almost immediately given how quickly the game expanded. Not long after the turn of the century, in 1902, St. Anthony’s FC were formed as part of the League of the Cross hall in Govan. In this pre-war era, Scottish football grew and grew with more teams being established by the day. Currently, there are 42 professional teams in Scotland but well over 500 teams spanning the non-league, junior and amateur levels.

As expected, football took a break during the second World War but not too shortly after its end, Scottish football prospered greatly. Hibernian and Hearts began to make a name for themselves, winning 6 domestic honours between them in the 1950s. European competitions were introduced and many Scottish teams put themselves on the map continentally. Celtic won the European Cup in 1967 and became the first non-latin team to do so while Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup half a decade later in 1972. Despite what Celtic’s 9 consecutive titles may suggest, this era boasted fierce domestic competition.

The two major Glasgow sides, however, were not the only teams to enjoy European success. Aberdeen won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983, conquering both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich en route. Dundee United then proceeded to push on and reach the UEFA Cup final in 1987, beating Barcelona in both legs of the quarter finals.

Modern European successes have been limited as football has become more commercialised and the financial gap between dominant European sides and Scotland has increased vastly. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped Rangers reaching the 2008 UEFA Cup final and Celtic not only doing the same in 2003, but also reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this rundown of our nation’s footballing history as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! I’d love it if you could leave a comment below, or even email me on with any points you’d like to discuss on any topic. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.


*as always the work here is the authors own and any views are the authors own and are not the views of Saint Anthony’s FC

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.