There can be little doubt that the surprise team of the early 1930s was Motherwell, who broke the Old Firm domination of the league to pick up the title in season 1931-32. The Steelmen had also reached the final of the Scottish Cup in 1931, losing to Celtic after a replay. So, there would have been no reason for any lack of confidence among the Motherwell players, management and fans when their side ran out at Fir Park on this day in 1932 for a 3rd round Scottish Cup tie with Celtic again as the opponents.
The latter, by contrast, had found the season of 1931-32 a most difficult one. On 5th September 1931, after a tragic accident at Ibrox, they had lost their excellent goalkeeper John Thomson, his death a shattering blow to the club and its support.
A replacement was required and two were tried out. John Falconer was given 4 consecutive league matches but lost 8 goals; Joe Coen played in 3 games and lost 5. Then manager Willie Maley remembered the name of Joe Kennaway, the keeper who had done his best to thwart Celtic during a match in the summer tour of North America (Fall River in Massachusetts) and he was brought over to make his debut against Motherwell on 31st October 1931.
On that day in 1932, Kennway was in goal when a strong Celtic side – Kennaway, Cook, McGonagle, Wilson, McStay, Geatons, A Thomson, Smith, McGrory, Napier and Kavanagh – could not cope with Motherwell’s fine play, the home side controlling the game and scoring twice to go through to the quarter-finals.
NB That league win by Motherwell in season 1931-32 was the first by a team other than Celtic and Rangers since Third Lanark won in 1903-04. And, don’t forget, the league campaign went ahead during the years of the First World War.
NB2 Joe Kennaway had an eight year career at Celtic Park between 1931 and 1939 before rheumatoid arthritis affected his form and re returned to the United States. Overall, he made 295 appearances with 83 shut-outs (28%).