CLYDE FC, the ‘Bully Wee’ were founded in 1877 and started play at Barrowfield Park, on the banks of the River Clyde. The club had formerly gone under the name of Eastern, and their main interests were in aquatics but they had already produced some footballers. The first recorded Clyde home match was in September 1877, a 3-1 loss to the 3rd Lanark Volunteers.
There is little photographic record of Barrowfield Park but contemporary reports indicate that there was a grandstand and pavilion, a cycle track around the pitch and tennis courts at one end.
Under two weeks after that first match Clyde met Third Lanark at Barrowfield again, this time in the 1st round of the Scottish Cup, but their debut in the competition resulted in a 1-0 loss.
The major early influence in Clyde’s growth was John D Graham. The club’s Honorary Secretary played as a goalkeeper for Queen’s Park at the same time though this joint loyalty apparently created little problem.
Clyde continued to play in the Scottish Cup and various other competitions but when the Scottish League was formed in 1890 to try to stem the flood of talented players moving south to play in pro football in England they initially refused to join up, seeing it as an affront to their amateur status.
After a successful first season for the new league Clyde applied to join and were admitted in time for the 1891-92 campaign. The team made a dream start, with a 10-3 thrashing of Vale of Leven in their first match. Although understandably unable to maintain that form the newcomers completed their debut season in a comfortable mid-table spot.
The following season was – not so good. Of 18 games played there were just a pair of wins and two draws so that meant relegation. The following season they finished 3rd in the second tier but were elected back to the top flight ahead of the two teams that finished above them.
In the mid-1890s the club had a regular mid-table position but the big issue became the home ground. The lease at Barrowfield was up for renewal and the owners were looking to maximise revenue. Also, the club were looking for a more secure location as too many people were able to watch matches without paying admission, and also to appease the league who had received a number of complaints from visiting clubs about changing facilities.
On the other side of the River Clyde, directly opposite Barrowfield, lay an area of open ground called Shawfield. With the nearby Rutherglen Bridge having been recently rebuilt access between the two areas was much improved.
To facilitate the move, Clyde needed to raise money. So Clyde became Clyde Football and Athletic Company Limited and 5,000 £1 shares were issued to raise money.
Sadly, while there was good news off the pitch, on it things weren’t going to plan. The 1897-98 season was even worse than ‘92-‘93 with just five points to show for an 18-game campaign and a goal difference of -64. Fortunately for the Bully Wee, Kilmarnock, who won the 2nd Division for the second year in a row were not elected to the top flight so Clyde kept their status.
And that was the end of Barrowfield. Well – almost. On 30 April 1898 English giants Sunderland were the opposition for the final match at the old ground, and Clyde battled to a 3-3 draw. And then – it was off to Shawfield.
Crossing the River
The ground where Shawfield was built was originally owned by a farm and had been used for sports meetings, including ‘professional’ athletics where gambling took place. There was an added attraction in that a number of new housing developments were being built close by, increasing the potential audience.
Clyde leased the land, with an option to buy and by the time the new season started the stadium was fully enclosed. The club were close to finishing a 1,500 capacity grandstand, with room for another 3,000 in a reserved enclosure in front and a pavilion underneath, with embankments on the other sides. Total capacity at the new ground was 40,000.
The opening match at the new stadium was against local rivals Celtic on 27 August 1898 and 10,000 fans turned up to watch a goalless draw.
Work on the stadium, and a large influx of new players, took their toll. The builders of the grandstand, and a former player, sued the club for monies owing and it then emerged that they had, in fact, only raised £1,100 from the share sale, some way short of the hoped-for £5,000.
Troubles – resolved
There was a solution. The limited company was dissolved and the former members bought the club’s assets back in return for ‘a modest payment’.
Many of the new players who had arrived in the previous year left and it is no surprise that the team fared worse than ever. With a paltry four points earned in 1899-1900 Clyde were back in Division Two.
Performances started to improve but when the team were 2nd Division champions in 1904-05 they were denied promotion by voters. But the following season they won the crown again and were elected back to the top flight.
A second limited company – The Clyde Football Club Limited – was formed in 1907 with capital of 3000 £1 shares and this company acquired the property and shares of Clyde Football Club.
Everything was finally getting stabilised. 1908-09 proved to be the best season in the club’s history with a 3rd-placed finish whilst the team also reached the semi-final of the Scottish Cup where they were thwarted by Celtic after a replay.
In 1910 Clyde went one better, reaching the Scottish Cup final for the first time – and they should really have won the trophy. Two goals up against Dundee with just seven minutes to go, they let the advantage slip as their opponents fought back to earn a replay. That finished goalless and Dundee then prevailed 2-1 in the second replay. Two years later they were losing finalists again, this time succumbing 2-0 to neighbours Celtic.
Soon after the war began, in September 1914, a fire completely destroyed the grandstand. Clyde were forced to switch their home games to Celtic Park for a while.
When things got back to normal after the war ended the Bully Wee struggled for a while before settling into a comfortable existence in the middle to lower reaches of the 1st Division. There was a relegation in 1923-24 followed by promotion two years later but this aside there was little change on the playing side of things.
But times remained financially hard, especially through the years of the depression, and the decision was made to purchase the freehold at Shawfield in order to allow greyhound racing at the stadium to boost income. The original lease terms prohibited animal racing so it was necessary to buy the ground in order to go ahead. There were objections from fans, and then, more importantly from the Scottish League who, after initially putting restrictions in place decided to ban greyhound racing from football grounds altogether.
Football + Dogs = No. Dogs + Football = Yes
Clyde’s chairman at this time was John McMahon and this shrewd man came up with a solution. If a football club couldn’t have a greyhound track, did the same rules apply to a greyhound track having a football club as tenants?
Clyde used this loophole and gave up their current lease on Shawfield. A new company bought the venue and leased it to the football club free of charge.
The new company – Shawfield Greyhound Racing Company Ltd, started greyhound operations at the ground in 1932 and the new business immediately proved successful. Clyde benefitted from the new arrangement right away and would do so for a considerable time.
Whilst the team continued to maintain their mid-table existence in the 1st Division throughout the 1930s they did much to enhance their reputation as fierce cup opponents. Three times semi-finals were reached, with Motherwell, Celtic and Rangers denying them a place in the final.
The breakthrough came in 1939. Victories over St Johnstone, Dundee, Rangers (4-1 at Ibrox) and Third Lanark set up a semi-final tie against Hibernian. This was safely negotiated by a single goal and it was off to Hampden.
Cup winners at last
On 22 April 1939, 94,000 fans watched Clyde hammer Motherwell 4-0 with goals from Willie Martin (2), Dougie Wallace and Davie Noble to bring the fabled trophy to Shawfield. The manager of the team was Paddy Travers who would remain at the helm for 17 years (having previously been boss of Aberdeen for 15 years) and who would still be in charge when Clyde took their second Cup in 1955.
Football was suspended on the outbreak of the 2nd World War but play started again on a regionalised basis in 1940. Clyde competed in the Southern League, although there were problems initially with the owners of Shawfield wanting to stage racing on Saturday afternoons. It was eventually agreed that the football club could have the venue on alternate weekends.
Once full-time football resumed the club built on their reputation as fierce cup fighters. In 1949 the Bully Wee reached another final where, helped by two penalties, Rangers overcame them 4-1 in front of 108,000 fans.
Relegation in 1951 was followed by an immediate return the following year, something that was to occur again later in the 50s but the decade is mostly remembered for further cup successes.
In 1954 Shawfield added floodlights and Huddersfield Town were invited for the first match under lights and the English visitors won 3-2.
Whilst League form was still wildly inconsistent the 1954-55 season brought the Scottish Cup to Shawfield for the second time. 96,000 were present at Hampden for the match against Celtic, the first final to be shown live on television. Clyde, of course, were underdogs and it was Celtic who took the lead. But Archie Robertson scored direct from a corner to equalise and take the match to a replay. 68,000 were present this time to see a single Tommy Ring goal prove enough for the Bully Wee to claim the trophy.
There were also a number of high-profile friendlies in the 1950s including games against Manchester United, Sunderland, Arsenal and Crystal Palace and the Bully Wee had a fine record in these, proving yet again their ability to shine in one-off games whilst struggling over the course of a full league season.
Three years later, with Johnny Haddow having taken over from Travers as manager they reached the final again – and won it again. This time a single goal from John Coyle was enough to secure a win over Hibernian. Such was the playing quality at Shawfield that Clyde had three players – Ring, Coyle and Harry Haddock in the Scotland squad at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden. Only Rangers provided more.
Ring was prominent in both Cup-winning sides and many see him as the Bully Wee’s greatest-ever player. He played almost 300 times for the club scoring 124 goals and earning those two cup-winners medals. The winger also appeared 12 times for his country scoring against Hungary and against England at Wembley.
Ring left the club to join Everton for £12,000 in 1960 and was making a fine impression for the Merseyside club before a broken leg slowed his career down. Spells at Burnley and – briefly – Aberdeen followed and he then played minor-league football with Fraserburgh and Stevenage Town before retiring in 1965.
In the early 1960s Clyde we’re constantly bouncing between the two divisions with relegation in 1961 and 1963 followed by promotions in ‘62 and ‘64.
Then in 1966-67, one more brush with the big-time. In what was an incredible year for football in Glasgow. Celtic took the domestic treble and added the European Cup for good measure in undoubtedly the great season ever for a Scottish club. Rangers were runners-up and also reached the European Cup-Winners Cup Final. And there were the Bully Wee, now mostly made up of part-timers and led by David White who took over when John Prentice left for the national team job, finishing 3rd, reaching the Scottish Cup semi-final and qualifying for the Fairs Cup
Clyde were denied the opportunity to play in Europe because of a UEFA regulation at the time which prohibited two teams from the same city from competing in the Fairs Cup. Shawfield split the Glasgow-Lanarkshire border but as Clyde were members of the Glasgow F.A. they were deemed to be a Glasgow club and Rangers, as league runners-up had qualified so Cyde were not allowed to enter..
But whilst things were going fine on the pitch, attendances at Shawfield were dwindling with housing redevelopment seeing many fans move away. This led to proposed mergers with Hamilton Academicals and Dumbarton, neither of which materialised.
The early 70s again saw the club bouncing between the top two flights but 1974-75 season would bring about an end to Clyde’s time at the top.
The creation of the Scottish Premier League increased the number of divisions in Scotland to three, and more importantly for clubs like Clyde, made it much tougher to reach the top – and stage the crowd-pulling fixtures against their neighbours that went a long way towards paying the bills.
Although the club still had the ability to find top-class players – the likes of Pat Nevin, Steve Archibald and Ian Ferguson all spent formative years with the Bully Wee – it was now a case of finding and developing these youngsters then selling to survive.
The club dropped down to the 2nd Division in 1976-77 before giving Craig Brown the managerial reins.
Brown, who would of course go on to manage Scotland brought in youngsters like Nevin – eventually sold to Chelsea for £95,000 – and led something of a mini-revival. But the best players were constantly sold off and the resulting funds were used to pay off debts rather than re-invest in the playing staff. And Shawfield was in a worse state than the team.
The stadium was a mess and the owners (now the Greyhound Racing Association) were looking to sell for development. In 1986 they gave the football club notice to quit. On 28 April 1986 the team played their final game at the stadium, a 4-2 victory over Alloa Athletic and football was gone from the venue.
The GRA would, in fact, find it impossible to sell the land for redevelopment due to planning restrictions and other factors and ended up selling it as a going concern. Speedway racing took place there for almost a decade but these days it is a greyhound track only.
Clyde spent the next eight years ground-sharing, first with Partick Thistle then with Hamilton before finally agreeing a deal with Cumbernauld Development Council who built Broadwood with the club becoming tenants.
Broadwood is a story in it’s own right but this is about Shawfield so everything comes to a halt in 1986.