Now Ged Jones, the founder and former curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park, has written a new book, Played in Glasgow. The book details the city’s remarkable role in sports from football, rugby and cricket to bowls, swimming and ice sports.
RUSSELL LEADBETTER finds out more...
It is, says Ged O’Brien, the most beautiful cup in the world -- and if anyone should know, it’s him, the founder and former curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park.
Ged was talking about the 1876 Glasgow Merchants’ Charity Cup, which was competed for by Glasgow’s football clubs, with proceeds going to charity. Known as the Glasgow Charity Cup, it was played for in 1966 but then lost for three decades -- a sad fate for the world’s second-oldest Association football trophy.
Ged, who has written an authoritative new book on the city’s amazing sports history, Played in Glasgow, said: “I had been loaned a Scottish Cup for two hours for a wee exhibition, and I had a case that had cost me £5,000 lying empty.
“The SFA said, ‘Come up to our Park Garden offices, you might find something’, so I went to the back of their strongroom and there was a mahogany case. When I opened it I nearly died of delight. I instantly knew what it was.”
A week later, Ged was talking to author, football historian and former Evening Times columnist Bob Crampsey.
Ged added: “He said, ‘Isn’t it a shame the Glasgow Charity Cup has been lost?’. I’m glad I was able to put him right.”
The Charity Cup’s peak year came in 1950, when success-starved Celtic beat Rangers 3-2 at Hampden to win it for the 25th time. It was their first trophy in two years -- and among the 81,000 spectators was Hollywood star Danny Kaye.
But with domestic clubs competing more in Europe, the trophy was abandoned in 1961. It was then revived for a few years with an annual Glasgow Select XI tackling top English teams, including Manchester United.
After the final game in August 1966, between Glasgow and a Leeds team that included Billy Bremner, the trophy was awarded to both to share, and found its way to Park Gardens. It is now on show at the Hampden museum.
The trophy is just part of the city’s remarkable history, which extends to rugby, cricket, bowls, swimming and ice sports.
“Glasgow is the world capital of sport,” said Ged. “It played a pivotal role in founding world football and also founded world bowls. I’m struggling to think of another city which founded two international sports.
“It is incredible. It’s a tribute to the dynamism of the people of Glasgow in the Victorian era of 1860-1890 that they were able to take what they were doing in industry as the workshop of the world and formalise so many of the major sports.”
At a time when Glasgow was the Second City of the Empire, between the 1830s and 1914, says Ged, it could also claim to be the world’s football capital.
The book makes clear that Scots were playing football on designated pitches, with goalposts and a fixed number of players, long before England’s Football Association was formed in 1863 -- while the modern form of Association football owes its origins to the “passing game” of Queens Park FC in the 1870s.
“Queens Park is the most important club in the world because it pretty much founded world football by putting on the first international in 1872 and having the first international football ground,” added Ged.
Almost every attendance record in British football has been set in Glasgow. And in 2008/09, Celtic and Rangers attracted Britain’s third and fourth highest average gates.
“That said, football is about more than just the Old Firm,” said Ged.
“We can’t forget teams such as Third Lanark or Partick Thistle, or Pollok, and Petershill.”
l Played in Glasgow: Charting the Heritage of a City at Play, by Ged O’Brien, £14.99.
Glasgow: Sports capital of the world
Glasgow’s reach in the world of sports even stretches to water polo. The game was effectively invented by Glaswegian William Wilson, who died in 1912. He devised “aquatic football” in 1877 as a way of entertaining fans between races at swimming galas. It was staged the following year at the opening of the Victoria Baths Club in Butterbiggins Road. By 1900, re-named water polo, it had become an Olympic sport.
Glasgow was also responsible for shaping the modern game of “flat green” or “lawn” bowls -- and even today, the city has Britain’s largest association of bowling clubs -- 47 of them more than 100 years old.
“No matter where you look, you will find that Glasgow had an important part to play in different sports,” adds Ged O’Brien. “International rugby was being played at Cathkin Park before Murrayfield ever existed.
“Even shinty largely became organised as a national sport in Glasgow in the 1870s, when the city was home to around 45,000 Gaels.”
Glasgow was one of the first UK cities to adopt speedway -- an Australian sport introduced here in 1927. It made its debut at a venue in the East End in 1928 and continues to this day with the Glasgow Tigers, at Ashfield Stadium.