The season of 1895-96 had been a good one for Celtic F.C. The club had won its 3rd League title in six years, had beaten Queen’s Park 6-3 in the final of the Glasgow Cup and picked up the Charity Cup by overcoming the same opponents 2-1.The only low spot was in the first round of the Scottish Cup, when those Spiders from the south side of Glasgow knocked out Celtic 4-2, the pitch at Parkhead on the afternoon being more suitable for Queen’s long-ball game rather than the short-passing one employed by the Bhoys.
Season 1896-97 did not start so well, as Celtic lost the opening league match 1-3 to Hearts in Edinburgh. However, after that disappointing beginning, the team had gone on a good run, winning seven and drawing three of the following ten matches. On this day in 1896 at Celtic Park, a fairly smallish crowd gathered for the second league meeting of the season against Paisley side Abercorn, the Celts having won the first one 6-0.
TEAM OF 1896-97
Matters might have been going reasonably well on the pitch but off it, relationships behind the scenes were a little under strain. Most of the players had been brought in from other clubs, the decisions to do so having been made by the committee in charge of all matters concerning selection. Naturally, this led to situations where certain players were pals with some officials and not with others, never a comfortable situation for any football team. From the results point of view, the team was successful but the players’ performances were not always highly regarded in the sporting press, some stars being accused of ‘unnecessary charging’. One paper even suggested that ‘a little less pugilism and a little more football would be much more effective’.
However, on this day in 1896, the match against Abercorn went well. The Paisley side were obviously not regarded too highly and the committee made several changes to what would be considered Celtic’s strongest side, putting out an eleven of McArthur, Meechan, Dunbar, Russell, Kelly, Battles, Madden, Blessington, King, McMahon and Divers. At the end of 90 minutes, the scoreline read Celtic 5 Abercorn 0, the goals coming from King (2), MacMahon (2) and Divers.
NB Right-half Davie Russell – playing in only his 9th game for Celtic – had already won an FA Cup winners with Preston North End in 1889 and a Scottish Cup one with Hearts in 1891.
NB2 For Abercorn, the season ended in relegation and they never managed to come up to the First Division again. They won the Second Division title in 1909 and were second in 1912 but on both occasions were not re-elected to the First Division. They dropped out of football in 1915 when the Second Division was scrapped and in spite of hard work on behalf of the fans, the club was unable to find a suitable ground and closed down on a permanent basis in season 1920-21.