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15 Interesting Facts About Scottish Football

James has been an online writer for over seven years. His articles often focus on wildlife, but he is also a diehard Scottish football fan.

A photo of the Scottish Cup.

A photo of the Scottish Cup.

1. The Oldest Trophy in Football

Scotland is the home of the oldest football trophy still in use, the Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup, or just Scottish Cup for short. It was crafted by the silversmith George Edward & Sons in Glasgow out of solid silver. It's approximately 19 inches high and weighs just a little under five pounds. It was first awarded in 1874, the first year of the Scottish Cup competition to Queens Park FC, who defeated a now-defunct team called Clydesdale 2-0 in the final.

The original trophy resides for most of the year at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Once a year, it is removed and given a good clean and polish before being presented to the tournament winners. Afterward, it is simply returned to the Museum. A replica trophy does exist, and this is given to the winners after the ceremony and is also used for commercial purposes.

Since 2003 Rangers have won 5 stars alongside their club crest. Each stars symbolizes 10 of the titles they have won.

Since 2003 Rangers have won 5 stars alongside their club crest. Each stars symbolizes 10 of the titles they have won.

2. The Most Successful Football Club in the World

Have you ever wondered just who the most successful football club in the world is? You might be tempted to think it is Real Madrid. After all, they have won an impressive 13 European Cup/Champions Leagues, and overall they have won a staggering 87 major trophies. However, Scotland plays host to a football club that has 28 more major trophies than even the mighty Los Blancos. That club is Rangers FC. The Glasgow giants have, in their 146-year history, won a mind-blowing 115 trophies, including a world record 54 League titles.

Incidentally, the second most successful team in world football are none other than Rangers' equally illustrious neighbours and fierce rivals Celtic FC. Celtic have to date won 105 trophies, 18 more than Real Madrid and included in among their many honours are 49 League titles, which is the 3rd highest League trophy haul, behind Rangers' 54 and Northern Irish club Linfield, who have won 52 League titles to date.

3. The Fiercest Football Rivalry

There can be few football, or indeed sporting rivalries that can match the sheer intensity and hatred that fuels each clash between two of the world's most successful football clubs, close neighbors Celtic and Rangers. Both hail from Glasgow, and both symbolize the deep divide that virtually splits the city in two even today.

The East End of Glasgow is predominantly of Irish and Catholic origin, and this is where Celtic draws most of its traditional support. Across the River Clyde in the West of Glasgow, the community is mostly Scottish and Protestant, and this forms the core of support for Rangers.

Not only do these two clubs act as symbols for the division of a city but indeed an entire nation. The feud between Catholics and Protestants is an integral part of an age-old question, the Irish Question. Irish Catholics believe that the whole of Ireland should be a free independent Republic, whilst Protestants, who are mainly concentrated in the province of Ulster, believe that the whole of Ireland should be under the rule of the British government.

Understandably, this has led to a great deal of conflict down the centuries, and each time Celtic and Rangers play the conflict is played out in the hearts and minds of both sets of supporters, with flags, banners and an array of sectarian songs.

4. The Last Team to Beat Real Madrid in a European Final

Real Madrid are the masters of success, especially on the European stage. But who was the last team to beat them in any European Final? The answer may just surprise you.

Back in 1983, Real Madrid took on Scottish side Aberdeen in the Final of the now-defunct European Cup Winners Cup. Real, then managed by the great Alfredo Di Stefano and featuring the likes of Jose Antonio Camacho and Johnny Metgod on the pitch, were heavily fancied to beat a young Aberdeen team, managed by future great Alex Ferguson and featuring the likes of Gordon Strachan and Alex McLeish on the pitch.

However, against all the odds, Eric Black put the Dons ahead in the 7th minute before Real striker Juanito equalized from the penalty spot 7 minutes later. The teams would remain deadlocked for the rest of the 90 minutes and into extra time until the 112th minute when Aberdeen substitute striker John Hewitt popped with the winner. The 2-1 victory for Aberdeen gave them their first European trophy, and to date, they are the last team to defeat Real Madrid in a European Final.

A photo of the Georg-Melches Stadion, home of Rot-Weiss Essen and the venue of Hibernian's first ever European Cup game.

A photo of the Georg-Melches Stadion, home of Rot-Weiss Essen and the venue of Hibernian's first ever European Cup game.

5. First British Team to Play in the European Cup

The European Cup, later to become the Champions League, began play in 1955, and initially, teams were invited to play by UEFA on the basis of the interest they may generate and also based on whether they possessed floodlights or not. English side Chelsea were invited but were persuaded to decline by then Football League secretary Alan Hardaker, so the honour fell to Hibernian. Hibernian, or Hibs, are a team based in Edinburgh, and they played in the inaugural season of the European Cup despite only finishing 5th in the Scottish League the previous season.

Hibs played their first two-legged tie against German team Rot-Weiss Essen winning 5-1 on aggregate. Next up was Swedish side Djurgardens and another comfortable aggregate win, a score of 4-1. However, Hibs' run would be halted in the semi-finals by French side Reims, which, at the time, had the great Raymond Kopa in their lineup. A 3-0 aggregate win for the French would see them play and ultimately lose 4-3 to Real Madrid in the Final.

6. First British Team to Win the European Cup

Just 11 years after Hibernian made the first Scottish foray into the European Cup, another side would go all the way and become the first from Britain to win the famous trophy. In the 1966/1967 Celtic, under the management of the great Jock Stein had already completed a clean sweep of all the trophies available to them, including the League, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup and Glasgow Cup.

Now they just needed the European Cup as the icing on the cake, and on the 25th May 1967 they took on the great Inter Milan team managed by Argentine Helenio Herrara, a team that had been European Champions in two of the three seasons and when Sandro Mazzola gave the Italians the lead in the 7th minute it seemed that history would repeat itself. However, Celtic, just after the hour mark through Tommy Gemmell and just six minutes Stevie Chalmers, diverted a Bobby Murdoch past the wrong-footed Inter keeper Giuliano Sarti.

The win cemented the team and their manager Jock Stein's place in history. What was truly remarkable about this particular Celtic team was that every single one of their players and their manager were all born within a 30-mile radius of Glasgow. In today's money-driven free market, such a thing happening again in football is almost impossible.

A view of Dundee's two football grounds- Dens Park on the left and Tannadice on the right.

A view of Dundee's two football grounds- Dens Park on the left and Tannadice on the right.

7. The Closest of Neighbors

There are a number of football clubs that are natural rivals based on their geographical location; often, they are separated by just a few miles. For example, Manchester City and Manchester United are separated by just 4.3 miles. Liverpool and Everton are even closer, standing just over a mile apart across Stanley Park, but there are few local rivals that can match the proximity of Dundee and Dundee United. Their grounds, Dens Park and Tannadice, respectively, are just 328 yards apart, and this close proximity has helped to breed a rather unique rivalry.

Most football rivalries are built on division, competition and even hatred. But the rivalry between the two Dundee clubs is actually rather amicable, with many families split down the middle in terms of who they support. As of the end of the 2017/2018 season, the two clubs have met 167 times with Dundee United leading the series 78 to Dundee's 48 wins with 41 draws.

Their last meeting was on the 9th August 2017 with Dundee claiming a 2-1 win at Dens Park in a Scottish League Cup tie. The two teams are currently in separate leagues, with Dundee in the Scottish Premiership and Dundee United in the Scottish Championship, so their next meeting is as of yet uncertain.

A photograph of the Queens Park team that won the first ever Scottish Cup in 1874.

A photograph of the Queens Park team that won the first ever Scottish Cup in 1874.

8. The Professional Amateurs

League football in Scotland is governed by an organisation called the Scottish Professional Football League or SPFL for short, and therefore, all of its member clubs are either fully professional or semi-professional. But there is one glorious exception, Queens Park FC, who, to this day, remain fully amateur. They are the oldest club in Scotland, forming in 1867, and in the early years, before the coming of professionalism, they were the dominant force in world football. They were pioneers of the passing game and frequently experimented with different playing styles at a time when most other football clubs played a simple kick and rush style game.

Queens Park play at the world-famous Hampden Park, and amazingly still own a stadium that is nowadays more commonly associated with the Scottish National team and Cup Finals. If you ever get the opportunity to watch Queens Park home game, you'll be in for a rather surreal experience, as their average attendance is just a couple of hundred fans. Still, they are a unique football club, and their motto "Ludere Causa Ludendi" to play for the sake of playing' serves as a sign of their commitment to amateurism.

Between 1873 and 1893, the Spiders (Queens Park's nickname) won an incredible 10 Scottish Cups and, to this day, remain the 3rd most successful club in the competition behind Rangers and Celtic. However, the coming of professionalism in 1885 would see the game drift away from its amateur roots and towards the game we know today. Queens Park refused to toe the line and initially refused to participate in the Scottish League upon its formation in 1890. Whilst they did eventually enter the League system, their refusal to embrace professionalism has seen the club largely float between the bottom two divisions in Scottish Football.

Scot Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager of all time amassing 49 trophies in his career.

Scot Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful manager of all time amassing 49 trophies in his career.

A photo of Bill Struth the legendary Rangers manager and most successful manager in Scottish Football with 30 trophies, all with Rangers.

A photo of Bill Struth the legendary Rangers manager and most successful manager in Scottish Football with 30 trophies, all with Rangers.

9. The Most Successful Manager of all Time

Scotland is famous for its football managers, and none are more famous or more successful than Sir Alex Ferguson. When taking his entire career into account, he has won an incredible 49 major trophies, 38 of them came at Manchester United. But it was Ferguson's exploits in Scotland that brought him to the attention of the Red Devils. His first major trophy came at the beginning of his career, claiming the Scottish First Division title at St Mirren.

However, given the landscape of Scottish football today, his exploits at Aberdeen were nothing short of remarkable. In an eight-year spell between 1978 and 1986, the Dons won 3 Scottish League titles, 4 Scottish Cups and a Scottish League Cup. Ferguson also brought Aberdeen European success in the form of the Cup Winners Cup in 1983 and the European Super Cup in the same year.

Other notable Scottish managers include legendary Rangers manager Bill Struth, who was at the helm of the club for 34 years between 1920 and 1954. During that time, he won 30 major trophies, including 18 Scottish League titles, a record League title haul for any manager. Also worthy of mention is legendary Celtic manager Jock Stein, who famously managed the club between 1965 and 1978. During that time, he won 10 League titles (9 of which came in a row from 1966 to 1974). Overall, he won a total of 26 major trophies in his career, the most famous being the 1967 European Cup.

A photo of Scotland's Billy Bremner challenging for the ball in a match against Zaire in the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

A photo of Scotland's Billy Bremner challenging for the ball in a match against Zaire in the 1974 FIFA World Cup.

10. The First Team to Exit the World Cup Without Defeat

The 1974 FIFA World Cup is best known for West Germany defeating the heavily fancied Netherlands to claim their second trophy. They were the first side to claim the current World Cup trophy after Brazil were allowed to keep the original Jules Rimet trophy.

However, for Scottish fans, the tournament is remembered as a rather bittersweet experience. The Scots are the joint oldest International team alongside England and have qualified for eight World Cups, but 1974 would see them exit the tournament in the first group stage without losing a match.

Scotland were drawn in Group 2 alongside Brazil, Zaire and Yugoslavia, and things got off to a great start when the Tartan Army claimed a 2-0 win over Zaire in Dortmund. But a 0-0 draw with Brazil and a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia would see the Scots squeezed out of the tournament on goal difference by Brazil.

In fact, the difference between Scotland and Brazil was just one goal. The South Americans scored an extra goal against Zaire, which gave them a goal difference of +3 as opposed to Scotland's +2. Other teams who have since followed Scotland's fate include England on three occasions (1982,1990 and 2006) and New Zealand in 2010.

11. Transfer Records

We live in a world of crazy football transfers. At one time fees of £20-30 million were seen as extortionate, now they're seen as the norm. But in Scottish football, money isn't quite as available as it is say in the Premier League. At the time of the writing, the record amount of money spent on one player by a Scottish club is the £12.5 million that Rangers handed over to Chelsea in November 2000.

The record transfer fee that a Scottish club has received is interestingly the same figure. Southampton coughed up £12.5 million for the services of then Celtic player Victor Wanyama in July 2013. Indeed, it seems that Southampton are rather fond of spending large amounts of money on Celtic players. In September 2015, they paid £11 million for Virgil Van Dijk, and in August 2014, they shelved out £10 million for Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Incidentally, the record transfer fee exchanged between two Scottish clubs is the £4.4 million Celtic paid Hibs for the services of Scott Brown back in July 2007.

Incidentally, a Scottish club has broken the world transfer fee, but that happened way back on the 7th February 1922 when Falkirk paid the mind-blowing fee of £5000 to West Ham United for the services of Syd Puddefoot, an English striker who had previously scored 102 goals in 158 games and would go on to score 45 goals in 113 games for The Bairns. Puddefoot would later for Blackburn Rovers and West Ham again. Puddefoot was a native of Essex, and while at Falkirk, he would spend his summers back in Essex and even represented Essex in First Class Cricket.

12. Huge Crowds

Scottish football holds the record attendance figure for a domestic match anywhere in Europe. A staggering 147,365 people crammed into Hampden Park to watch the 1937 Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Aberdeen. The Bhoys won the match 2-1. The world record, though, is a scarcely believable 173,850 who watch Brazil famously the 1950 FIFA World Cup Final to Uruguay in the Maracana Stadium.

13. A 100% Winning Record Against Barcelona

Barcelona are one of the world's biggest and most successful football clubs. Their current team is the envy of many boasting the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in the ranks. However, there is one team out there that can proudly state that in 4 games against the Catalan giants they have a perfect winning record. That team is Dundee United.

Dundee United and Barcelona first met in the 1966/1967 season in a two-legged tie in the 2nd round of the old Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a precursor competition to the Europa League. The first leg played at Camp Nou, Barcelona resulted in a famous 2-1 win for the Tangerines, followed up by a 2-0 win at Tannadice, Dundee. Twenty years later, the two teams would meet again in the same competition, then known as the UEFA Cup. Barcelona at the time were managed by Terry Venables and boasted an all British frontline of Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes. However, an early goal by Kevin Gallacher a slim 1-0 lead to take into the 2nd leg.

In the return fixture at Camp Nou Barca were able to level up the tie with Caldere scoring in the 40th minute. With the second half clock ticking down, it seemed as though the game was headed for extra time. However, Dundee United would sensationally score two late goals through John Clark in the 85th minute and Iain Ferguson in the 89th minute to progress to the semi-finals. Dundee United would actually go on to reach the final but would lose narrowly, 2-1 on aggregate to Swedish side IFK Goteborg.

14. Shared Title and No 0-0's

The Scottish Football League kicked off in 1890, and the first season was truly one for the ages. Ten teams played each other home and away, making a total of 90 games, in which 409 goals were scored, an average of 4.54 a game. But more amazingly, there were absolutely no 0-0 draws, and the pick of the results include a 9-1 home win for Celtic over Vale of Leven and an incredible game between Cowlairs and Abercorn, which ended 7-5 in favour of the former.

At the end of the season, Dumbarton and Rangers were neck and neck at the top of the table on 29 points. If goal difference had existed back then, then Dumbarton would have claimed the title by virtue of the fact that their goal difference was seven better than Rangers. However, on this occasion, both teams played a one-off match at Cathkin Park, Glasgow, to decide the Championship. But the game ended 2-2, so the league title was shared for the first and only time in its history.

15. The First Dugout

Dugouts are one of those features of a football match that just seem to have always been there. It's hard to imagine a ground or stadium without that sheltered area close to pitch level, where the coaching staff sit alongside a row of substitute players. But up until the 1920s, dugout simply did not exist.

Donald Colman was the Aberdeen coach during the 1930s and was a man ahead of his time. He focused most of his attention during games on watching players' footwork and experimenting with possession football. In order to make the observation of footwork easier, he devised a sheltered area below pitch level so that he could sit and make notes. The dugout, as he called it, was born, and it soon spread out of Aberdeen right across the footballing world.

© 2018 James Kenny


noel and ava on May 28, 2019:

that is awesome!

James Kenny (author) from Birmingham, England on August 27, 2018:

Thanks Liz. Glad you liked them.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 27, 2018:

Fascinating article. I wasn't aware of any of these facts.