I thought I’d continue with my Caledonian theme, what with the Scottish League starting this weekend and everything. The plight of East Stirlingshire to follow tomorrow (or maybe later tonight), but tonight I’d thought I’d focus on Glasgow’s long-forgotten “third” club (and I say this in full knowledge of the existence of Partick Thistle): Third Lanark.
Third Lanark were formed before either Celtic or Rangers. 1872, to be precise. As you may have gathered from the name, they were initially connected to the military, but the link soon ended, and the Hi-His (so nicknamed because their ground was an altitude which meant that it overlooked the rest of Glasgow) became one of the powerhouses of early Scottish football. They won the Scottish League in 1904 and the Scottish Cup twice. As Celtic and Rangers cemented their stranglehold on the Scottish League, though, Lanark struggled. They yo-yoed between the two divisions of the Scottish League in the 1920s and 1930s, but settled again in Division One in the mid-1950s, and reached the final of the Scottish League Cup as recently as 1959.
During their last great period, a number of (relatively) well-known players played for them. Bobby Craig, who would go on to star for Newcastle and Celtic, was one. Ally McLeod (best known for his magnificently deluded management of Scotland at the 1978 World Cup) both started and finished career playing for them. A total of of eight years. It wasn’t enough. In the early 60s, they took the financially ruinous decision to build a new stand at a time when their crowds were tumbling. By April 1967, just 297 people turned up to see one of their last matches, a home match against the newly-formed Clydebank. They went into liquidation that summer. A subsequent Board Of Trade report showed considerable financial mis-management on the part of the club’s directors, including a rumour that the club’s final chairman had attempted to manipulate the club’s difficulties in order to personally profit from any sale of the ground.
There was a certain irony that it was development of their ground that turned out to sound their death knell, because it is the ground itself that they are now probably most famous for. Initially known as Hampden Park, it was passed to them from Queens Park, who even now play at the current Hampden Park ground. They soon changed its name to Cathkin Park, and it was one of Scotland’s biggest grounds, with a capacity of 50,000. After the club folded in 1967, Glasgow City Council took it over, and it is still used for schools football matches today. Somewhat remarkably, they didn’t landscape the area, and it makes for quite an eerie sight. The supporters largely preferred to transfer their support to a Scottish Junior League side Pollok, who even now get by far the biggest attendances in their league (and, at around 600, considerably more than many lower division Scottish League clubs).
Pollok’s best days could yet be ahead of them. The Scottish League is currently debating whether to introduce re-election or promotion and relegation from the bottom of Division Three, and they would surely be amongst the favourites to make the step up. Might I suggest that, should they ever manage this, they change their name to Third Lanark and their colours to red and white? Either tonight or tomorrow, I’ll be taking a look at the team that they’d be most likely to replace.