When Celtic first began to play regular matches, initially in the Scottish Cup then from season 1890-91 also in the Scottish League, they came up against sides which had been in existence much longer.
One of these was Vale of Leven FC, which came from the area just to the west of Dumbarton, a region which produced another of the early ‘star’ teams in Renton. Founded in 1872, Vale of Leven won the Scottish Cup in 1877, 1878 and 1879, one of only four Scottish sides to win the trophy in three consecutive seasons ( the others are Queen’s Park, Rangers and Aberdeen) and were founder members of the Scottish League, finishing 9th in the 10-team division in the inaugural season of 1890-91.
In the following season of 1891-92, the First Division had been extended to 12 teams and this time round, the Vale were finding matters tough. By the time they came up to First Celtic Park on this day in 1891 to face the Green and Whites in what would be their ninth match of the season, they had not won a single game.
By contrast, Celtic had been impressive. Admittedly, they did lose the first league match of the season to Hearts at Tynecastle by 3 goals to one but then went on to win the following 7, scoring 25 goals in the process and losing only 6. The Celtic team that afternoon was Duff, Reynolds, Doyle, W Maley, Kelly, Dowds, MacCallum, Brady, Madden, MacMahon, Campbell. No doubt the Vale of Leven players were quite apprehensive before the game; afterwards, they would have been quite despondent, as Celtic had run riot, scoring 6 goals through Alex Brady, Sandy ‘Duke’ MacMahon and Johnny Madden, who scored 4.
NB Celtic finished 2nd in the league that season with 35 points from 22 matches, just 2 points behind winners Dumbarton.
NB2 Goalkeeper Tom Duff played one more league match ( v St Mirren 26th December 1891) and one Scottish Cup tie ( v Kilmarnock Athletic 19th December 1891) before taking to the field in the Celtic side which played a friendly versus Dumbarton on New Year’s Day 1892, the first time goal nets had been used in a match at First Celtic Park. Unfortunately, poor Tom got to know the nets quite well, as he picked the ball out of them 11 times ( three were disallowed) in the 0-8 loss to the Sons. Whatever the reasons ( see Celtic; Pride and Passion. Jim Craig and Pat Woods) Tom carried the can and never played for Celtic again.