Massive changes in society in the 1870’s gave birth to a new generation of leisure pursuits, which saw football became the sport of the masses.
The revolutionary introduction of half days on Saturday for many trades gave the working class man the time to indulge in these pursuits. During this time many teams were founded throughout the Lanarkshire area. These teams were most notably work teams.
Two teams dominated the Motherwell area at the time, the first being Glencairn, who started up in 1877. Named after John Glencairn Carter Hamilton of Dalziel, they initially called open ground at Craigneuk their home, using a local school as their facilities. This park was known as the ‘Foot of the Knowe.’ However, they soon moved to ‘The Meadows’ via a short stay at a pitch at Broomside near Kidstones Pit, in the area now known as North Lodge.
The Meadows was an in demand park, hosting the annual gala occasions as well as being the home of Glencairn’s fierce rivals, Alpha FC. Alpha FC would go on to become the most popular side in the area and eventually become the backbone of Motherwell Football Club.
Founded in 1881 by the workers in George Russell’s Alpha Steam Crane and Engineering Works, which was based in Park Street, they developed by playing against a host of other amateur teams that had sprung up in Motherwell, Wishaw and Bellshill. Some of the more prominent names at the time were Dalziel Rovers, Milton Rovers, Motherwell North End, Motherwell Amateurs and Hamilton Park.
In 1886 a Motherwell Charity Cup was established to engage local teams in a tournament that was to be for the ‘benefit of the poor.’ Another game that was set up at this time was an exhibition between Glasgow Ancients – as the name suggests, a selection of older players from Glasgow – and a select eleven made up of players from both Alpha FC and Glencairn.
This was a huge deal; as the months prior to the game had been filled with talk of the two top sides in Motherwell amalgamating to form a stronger team. This argument was done no harm when the select eleven overcame the more experienced Ancients two goals to one in front of a large crowd.
On the 6th May 1886, the Alpha board met and decided to disband the club as it was, and reform it under a new constitution and set of rules. The plan was to keep the same name, but eleven days later (17th May 1886) representatives of Glencairn and Alpha met in Baillie’s Pub in Parkneuk and decide to form a new club altogether. This new club was to be called Motherwell Football Club.
A committee was formed and they were able to field a team, albeit and Alpha dominated one. Their debut fixture proved to be a successful one as they outshone Hamilton Academicals 3-2.
On the dawn of this new era the Motherwell Times commented that the merger of the two sides could make “Motherwell second to none in the West of Scotland as a country club.”
Chairman Jim McMahon said: “For 130 years since, Motherwell have been a Scottish football institution, winning every major trophy and breaking boundaries with worldwide tours during the 1920s and 1930s. The club has also competed in every European competition, making it amongst the most successful non-City clubs in our game.
“We remember and celebrate our past on this, a special anniversary, whilst looking towards our future. The club has always been built on the passion and energy or its supporters and those who love the club.
“The club is again in transition, and everyone at Fir Park is working exceptionally hard to ensure our future is safeguarded for generations to come – so people during the next 130 years can enjoy the highs and lows of being a Motherwell fan.
“We ask you to help us by renewing our buying your Season Ticket for 2016/17. It’s a huge season for the club, one where we’ll need absolutely everyone working together to make us competitive as we can. You can help us by again putting your faith in us, and getting your ticket this summer.”
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