Posts tagged: Liverpool

The Football League: conceived in Fleet Street, born in Manchester

By , 21st March 2013 11:11

Andertons_Hotel_site_01022011As well as the 150th anniversary of the Football Association, 2013 also marks the 125th anniversary of the world’s first league football competition.  The Football League was the brainchild of William McGregor, a committee member of Aston Villa FC.

The prohibition on professionalism had been lifted by the Football Association in 1885.  Drawing the biggest crowds, the FA Cup, and to a lesser extent local and regional cup competitions, were the principle sources of revenue for those clubs that started to pay players. However the knock-out nature of cup football made managing club finances difficult.

On 2 March 1888, McGregor wrote to five prominent clubs proposing a meeting to discuss his idea of establishing a programme of competitive home and away fixtures to give clubs more stable and predictable revenue streams. He also canvased suggestions of other clubs who should be invited to participate.

Representatives from Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion met at Anderton’s Hotel, Fleet Street, in London on 23 March – the eve of the 1888 FA Cup Final.  (The final was to be contested by West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End at the Oval.)

Anderton’s Hotel stood at 165 Fleet Street.  The Victorian building was demolished in 1939 and the site is now part-occupied by a branch of HSBC.

2013-02-06 13.38.18Although the modern building’s connection with the origins of league football is not commemorated, the British Institute of Professional Photography did erect a plaque on the occasion of the centenary of its inaugural meeting which was held at Anderton’s Hotel on 28 March 1901.

The Football League was officially born at a meeting at the Royal Hotel in central Manchester on 17 April 1888.    The 12 founding members included six clubs from the Midlands and six from Lancashire: Aston Villa, Derby County, Notts County, Stoke City, West Brom, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Accrington, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Everton and Preston.

In marked contrast, the clubs which had attended the inaugural meeting of the Football Association at the Freemasons Tavern 25 years previously had all been from the London area.  It is perhaps a reflection of the commercial nous of the League’s founder members that all bar Accrington survive today. By contrast, of the 11 founder members of the FA – Barnes, Blackheath, Blackheath Proprietary School, Civil Service, Crusaders, Crystal Palace, Forest of Leytonstone (who later became the Wanderers), Kensington School, No Names Club from Kilburn, Perceval House (Blackheath), and Surbiton – only Palace has maintained a place in the upper tiers of the sport in England.

As for Manchester’s Royal Hotel, it stood on the corner of Market Street and Mosley Street overlooking what is now Piccadilly Gardens.   The hotel itself was demolished in 1908 and the site was incorporated into Lewis’s Emporium which was already occupying an adjacent block.  The Emporium was replaced in 1915 and the site is now occupied by the Royal Buildings.  The site’s role in the creation of league football is commemorated by  a plaque erected by Manchester City Council in 1996.

140 years of FA Cup final venues

By , 4th May 2012 18:42

The FA Cup final has been synonymous with Wembley since 1923. However, 10 venues have staged finals over the tournament’s 140 year history. Another three have staged replays.

Although the overwhelming majority of Finals have been played in London, Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff have hosted finals while Derby, Bolton and Sheffield have had the honour of hosting replays.

As with 4/5/6 Nations rugby venues, the sporting heritage of several started with cricket: The Oval, Racecourse Ground and Bramall Lane, while Lillie Bridge and Stamford Bridge were important in the early development of athletics as an organised sport.

The Oval’s role as venue for 20 out of the first 21 finals had a lot to do with Charles W Alcock being simultaneously secretary of both the Football Association and Surrey County Cricket club. As the principal co-ordinator of fixtures for visiting cricket teams from Australia, his cricketing contacts probably had something to do with the 1886 replay being taken to Derby’s Racecourse Ground.

Three of the venues are, sadly, no longer sporting landmarks. Their approximate outlines are plotted on the map below. (Zoom in to find them in West London, Greater Manchester and Bolton.)

View FA Cup Final venues in a larger map

The full list of FA Cup final winners can be found here.

Liverpool’s 19th Century contribution to Goal Line Technology

By , 2nd May 2012 16:00

Disputed goals are nothing new. Neither are proposals for goal line technology.

In the game’s early days, goals were defined by two vertical posts.  The cross-bar, introduced in 1882, was one of many footballing innovations from Sheffield, alongside the throw-in, heading, corner kicks, free-kicks for fouls and even half time.

However disputes over whether the ball had passed between the posts or behind them were common and became more vociferous as the sport became more commercial and spectators started to pay to watch their local teams.

It was a disallowed goal in a closely fought match between Everton and Accrington on 26 October 1889 that inspired the invention of the goal net.

The game was played at Anfield, Everton’s home until the club moved to nearby Goodison Park after a dispute with their landlord in 1892.  Everton, and their supporters, were convinced they had scored.  The ref disagreed.  The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Among the crowd was John Alexander Brodie (1858-1934) a young civil engineer.  In November 1889, he submitted a patent application (no. 19,112) for goal nets for football and other games.  The patent was granted on 27 November of the following year.

Brodie’s proposal was delightfully simple: a ‘pocket in which the ball may lodge after passing through the goal’.  Nets ‘as under Mr Brodie’s patent’ were later approved by the Football Association and first used in an FA Cup final in March 1891 at the Oval, London. Nets became compulsory for all league matches from September 1891 and for all FA Cup ties from 1894.

Although Brodie described the goal net as the invention of which he was most proud, he also had an enduring influence on the development of Liverpool as a city.   He conceived the Queen’s Road ring road, the concept of building tramways in central reservations and pioneered the use of concrete for pre-fabricated affordable housing.  He also worked on Queensway, the original Mersey Tunnel, which became the longest subaqueous road tunnel when it opened in 1934.   Further afield, he was also involved in the planning of New Delhi in India.

Another of Brodie’s projects can also be regarded as something of a sporting landmark.  His East Lancashire Road (A580) connecting Liverpool with Mancheseter was the first purpose-built trunk-road. It’s name is often applied to derby matches featuring a club from each of the cities.

Brodie was born on 5 June 1858 at Chyknell,near Bridgnorth, Shropshire. He studied at Owens College Manchester between 1879-81. An English Heritage plaque was erected at his former Liverpool residence at 28 Ullet Road in 2000.

SJ3688 : 28 Ullet Road, John Brodie's House by Sue Adair
28 Ullet Road, John Brodie’s House
© Copyright Sue Adair and
licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Grand National’s Waterloo

By , 9th April 2011 00:04

A recurring theme in the development of sport is the role played by hoteliers and licensees in promoting new events in the hope of drumming up business. Thomas Coleman of the Turf Hotel in St Albans was instrumental in bringing steeplechasing to Great Britain from Ireland.

It was another hotelier, William Lynn, who established the race that was to become the Grand National. Born in 1792 at East Grinstead in Sussex, Lynn entered the catering trade in London, before moving to Liverpool where he leased the Waterloo Hotel in Ranelagh Street in the 1820s. He first became a benefactor of horse racing in 1828 when he provided the Waterloo Gold Cup for a flat race at Maghull.

The following year Lynn took out a lease on the neighbouring Aintree course and became secretary of the Aintree Racing Company – a post he held until 1843. A grandstand was erected and flat-race meeting staged before hurdle races were introduced in October 1835. Two of these races were won by Captain Martin Becher who was a previous winner of the Great St Albans Steeplechase. It was Becher who planted the idea of a great northern steeplechase at Aintree in Lynn’s mind.

The first Grand Liverpool steeplechase was held on leap year day, 29 February, 1836, and was won by Becher on The Duke. Contested over two circuits of Aintree’s two mile course, the event proved popular as spectators could follow most of the race from the grandstand unlike other steeplechases which were typically staged over point-to-point cross country courses.

The 1839 race is considered by racing historians to have been the first ‘Grand National’ although the race remained the Grand Liverpool until 1843 when it assumed the name of the Liverpool and National. The current name was adopted from 1847.

It was in the 1839 race that Becher attained immortality by being thrown by his mount Conrad into the brook that now bears his name where it crosses the course.

Lynne continued to run the Waterloo Hotel until 1870 when it was acquired by the Cheshire Lines Committee to make way for the development of Liverpool’s Central railway station. The Era of 31 July 1870, mourned the imminent loss “of one of the few buildings in Liverpool which is famous beyond our town”. Today the site, which is once again awaiting redevelopment as Central Village, stands over passengers traveling through Merseyrail’s Central Station.

Lynn died on 11 October 1870 at home in Norwood Lodge, Norwood Grove, West Derby, Liverpool in an area redeveloped in the late twentieth century. He is buried in St James Cemetery next to Liverpool Cathedral.

In addition to the Grand National, Lynn also inaugurated the Waterloo Cup: hare coursing’s premier event was staged at Great Altcar, around 15 miles north of Lynn’s hotel, between 1836 and 2005.

Much Wenlock, the Shropshire GP and the modern Olympics

By , 20th July 2010 15:37
Birthplace of William Penny Brookes

7 Wilmore St, Much Wenlock

William Penny Brookes was born, lived, worked and eventually died at 7 Wilmore Street in the tranquil Shropshire market town of Much Wenlock.  It is surprising how a man who spent so much of his life in such a small, if beautiful, patch of rural England played such a major part in the creation of the modern Olympic Movement.

Born on 13 August 1809, Brookes followed his father into the medical profession training in London, Padua and Paris. On his father’s death in 1831, he returned to Much Wenlock to take over the practice and become a leading figure in the local community.

In 1841, Brookes established the town’s Agricultural Reading Society as an early lending library. This gave birth to a number of ‘classes’ promoting the arts and sciences.  Convinced of the importance of physical exercise Brookes set up the Wenlock Olympian Class in 1850 under the umbrella of the Reading Society with the objective of holding an annual games to “promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock, and especially the working classes.”

Including a mix of classic athletic events and traditional country sports, the first games were held in October 1850.  Open to all-comers, the second Games in 1851 were already attracting competitors from Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

When Evangelis Zappas staged the Athens Olympian Games – restricted to Greek nationals – for the first time in 1859, a £10 donation from Brookes on behalf of the Wenlock Olympian Committee resulted in the Wenlcok Prize being awarded for the ‘Sevenfold’ race.

By 1860, the Olympian Class flew its nest in the Agricultural Reading Society to become the Wenlock Olympian Society that exists to this day.  It was also in this year that Brookes launched a new initiative: the Shropshire Olympian Games. Conceived as a biannual event, the staging of the Shropshire Games would be taken on by a different town within the county every two years – a model later adopted by the Olympics.

In 1865, Brookes extended his horizons further when, in collaboration with John Hulley of Liverpool and Ernst Ravenstein of the German Gymnasium in London, he was instrumental in establishing the National Olympic Association.  This “union for different Olympian, Athletic, Gymnastic, Boating, Swimming, Cricket and other similar societies” staged its first festival at Crystal Palace over three days in 1866.  (The fourth National Olympian Games were held in Much Wenlock in 1874.)

The success of the event, which attracted 10,000 spectators, promoted the formation of the Amateur Athletic Club by a group of ex-public school athletes determined to preserve sport for ‘amateurs and gentlemen’.  Despite the efforts of the AAC, which later became the Amateur Athletic Association, athletics remained open to what Brookes described as ‘every grade of man’.

A sustained campaign to see physical education included in the school curriculum led to the first contact, in 1889,  between Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Congress on Physical Education.  At Brookes’ invitation de Coubertin arrived by train to attend the Much Wenlock Games on Linden Field on 22 October 1890.  That evening, he was guest of honour at a dinner hosted by the Wenlock Olympian Society at the Raven Hotel in Barrow Street.  It was during this visit that Brookes shared his dream of reviving an international Olympic Games in Athens – an idea that de Coubertin acknowledged in an article in La Review Athletique on his return to France.

Unfortunately, Brookes died at home in Wilmore Street on 10 December 1885 just four months before his dream was realised with the staging of the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens.  In an obituary for Brookes, de Coubertin wrote:

“If the Olympic Games that Modern Greece has not yet been able to revive still survives today, it is due, not to a Greek, but to Dr William Penny Brooks.”

Brookes is buried just across the road from his home in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church.   On visiting the grave in 1994, Juan Antonio Saramanch, the then President of the International Olympic Committee, Samaranch said,

“I came to pay tribute and homage to Dr Brookes who really was the founder of the Modern Olympic Games.”

Much Wenlock’s Museum and Visitor Information Centre on the corner of High Street and Wilmore Street displays a collection of documents and artefacts associated with Brookes and the Much Wenlock Olympian Games.  It is also the starting point for the Oympian Trial which takes visitors to all the major landmarks linked to the town’s Olympic connection.

Visit Britain has produced this video on Penny Brookes and Much Wenlock.

St Albans, the Grand National and a fatal fist fight

By , 6th April 2010 20:43

Former Turf Hotel, Queen's Hotel, Steeplechase, St AlbansUpdated 23 July 2014 Thomas Coleman (c 1796-1877) a noted racehorse trainer moved to St Albans around 1820 and became licensee of the Turf Hotel at 8 Chequer Street. Under his stewardship, the Turf became renowned for its “good chef, choice cellar and, especially welcome after a long day in the saddle, the rare luxury of a hot bath.”

Like many landlords of the period, Coleman was an entrepreneurial spirit who organised a variety of sporting events to attract custom. In 1829, he started organising flat races on Nomansland Common on the road to Wheathampstead, to the north of St Albans.

The following year, Coleman staged the first Great St Albans Steeplechase – considered by many to be the first steeplechase in England. (The sport and its name date back to a race between Buttevant and Doneraile church steeples in County Cork, Ireland, in 1752.)

According to Robert Grimston, son of local landowner James Walter Grimston, 1st Earl of Verulam (whose family was later to negotiate a lease with Sam Ryder for the extension of the Verulam Golf Club), the race was instigated by officers of the 1st Regiment of Life Guards while dining at the Turf. One theory suggests that the officers may have encountered steeplechasing while on leave in Ireland. An alternative theory credits the Hertfordshire Militia, which had served in Ireland from 1811 to 1813, as having suggested the race.

Although organised from St Albans, the first race was actually in Bedfordshire, between Harlington Church, 18 miles north of the Turf Hotel, to the obelisk in Wrest Park.  Later races were centred on Nomansland Common, which lies between St Albans and Wheathampstead.  Some of races may have been an “out-and-back” course between the Turf and the Common.

By 1834, Coleman’s organisational skills had made the Great St Albans one of the sporting highlights of the year, attracting horses and riders from all over the country. The 1834 race itself was won by the controversial cricketer and hunter, the Rev. Lord Frederick Beauclerk. He was famous for never allowing his clerical duties as vicar of the St Albans parish of St Michael “to interfere materially with the claims of cricket”. He had entered the race as ‘Mr Band’ to avoid displeasing his bishop!

William Lynn, proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel in Liverpool, was so impressed by Coleman’s success that he decided to venture into steeplechasing himself. A consortium led by Lynn had already laid out a race course and built a grandstand on land leased from Lord Sefton in the Liverpool suburb of Aintree. Flat race meetings had successfully been staged there since July 1829. Assisted by Captain Martin Becher, Lynn staged the first steeplechase at Aintree in 1835.

Initially, Lynn and his Grand Liverpool Steeplechase struggled to compete with Coleman until rising costs and growing resistance to the disruption the race imposed on St Albans brought an abrupt end to the Great St Albans Steeplechase after the 1838 race. Aintree staged what is officially considered to be the first Grand National on Tuesday, 26 February 1839.

However, Coleman’s influence was profound – even if it is now largely forgotten: within a decade of the first Great St Albans, more than sixty steeplechases were being held across England.

Given its steeplechasing heritage, it was perhaps fitting that for several years up to 2014, the Turf Hotel was the St Albans branch of the Cheltenham & Gloucester!

My thanks to the Revd Stephen J Williams of Harlington Church whose extensive research into the Great St Albans has cut through the confusion over the venues for the races that was reflected in earlier versions of this post.   The history of the National as described in Visit Harlington’s guide to the village is based on Stephen’s work. 

View The Great St Albans: the first steeplechase in England in a larger map

As well as horse racing, Nomansland Common was a popular venue for a variety of other sporting contests and wagers including hare coursing, shooting matches and prize fighting.

The last prize fight on the Common was organised by Coleman in 1833.  By all accounts, this was a brutal encounter between Simon Byrne, the Irish champion and ‘Deaf’ Burke. Byrne was eventually knocked out after a marathon battle – which lasted three hours and 16 minutes according to one account. When he died three days later, Burke and his seconds were charged with manslaughter. The defendants were acquitted on medical evidence: a surgeon testified that the death had not been caused by the boxing injuries.

This contemporary broadside report placed the fight 150 miles from London up the Great North Road. At the time, prize fights were often stopped by local magistrates – or the interfering ‘beaks’ referred to in the second paragraph. The whereabouts of a fight would kept secret until the last possible moment and would only be made known by word-of-mouth at London’s sporting clubs or at pre-arranged meeting points on the road.  By reporting an inaccurate fight location, the publisher may have been attempting to protect a successful venue for future use.

Britain’s sporting museums, galleries and collections

By , 21st November 2009 22:39

The map below shows the locations of sporting museums, galleries and collections in Britain.  It includes institutions involved in Our Sporting Life as well as other museums and collections mentioned in the June 2006 Sports Heritage Network Mapping Survey by Annie Hood.

Many are dedicated to a particular sport. Others are museums with a more general remit which include significant collections with a sporting connection.

There are currently 56 collections featured on this map. It’s probably no surprise that 11 of the museums – the biggest group – are dedicated to football. As one of the longest established organised sports, cricket accounts for seven establishments. Follow the link at the foot of the map to see a listing of the museums alongside a larger map.

Museums related to hunting have been included on the grounds that national hunt racing, equestrianism, and shooting sports have the pastime in their ancestries. Its also worth remembering that before Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, in Britain the word “sport” was most often associated with hunting and angling.

It’s interesting to see that sporting museums can be found the length and breadth of Britain. Let me know if you know of any I’ve missed.

PS: its a shame Google maps doesn’t offer icons for archery, motor sport, cricket, shinty, fencing, shooting, badminton, rugby or tennis!

View Britain’s sporting museums and galleries in a larger map

‘Wembley for women’ aspires to rival Goodison Park

By , 24th September 2009 16:26

GoodisonParkIn September 2009, the Guardian reported on Nottingham Forrest’s plans for a new stadium and its vision to offer their proposed new home as a venue for future finals of the Womens FA Cup and England’s womens internationals.

The article applauded the promotion of the womens game by both Forest  and Nottingham City Council and their contribution to attracting a record attendance of 24,582 to the 2008 womens cup final held at the City Ground.

Notwithstanding the England womens team’s achievements at Euro2009, there is still some way to go before womens football regains the heights it enjoyed before it was banned by the Football Association in 1921.   The record crowd for a womens football match in England is 53,000.  The match took place at Everton’s Goodison Park on 26 December 1920 when the remarkable Dick, Kerr’s Ladies works team beat St Helens Ladies 4-0.

Looking for Busby’s birthplace in Lanarkshire

By , 15th September 2009 14:03

MattBusbyOn 6 September 2009, Motherwell defeated Manchester United’s reserves to win the Sir Matt Busby Shield.  The charity match was organised to commemorate the centenary of the birth of the first United manager to achieve “legend” status.  Busby was born on 26 May 1909 in Orbiston, now part of Bellshill, which lies a couple of miles north of Motherwell in North Lanarkshire.  Funds raised will provide scholarships to help people from Lanarkshire take their first steps as football coaches.

Having stumbled across a preview of the match in the Telegraph, I wondered how easy it would be to locate exactly where Busby was born.  In what appears to be a recurring theme with sporting landmarks, checking out one sporting connection threw up several others.


A Google search quickly provides a wealth of support for Orbiston, Bellshill, Lanarkshire as the birthplace of the manager of the first English club to win the European Cup (in 1968).  Controversially, places Orbiston in England!

Around the time of Busby’s birth, Orbiston was a small mining village of just 30 houses.  Although neighbouring Bellshill had a two-ward hospital from the 1870’s, local sources take pride in the fact that it set up Lanarkshire’s first maternity hospital in 1917 – eight year’s after Busby birth.  In the early 20th century, before the NHS, hospital births were the exception rather than the rule – especially for the working class – so Busby would probably have been born at home.

Various sources record Busby’s father as Alexander Busby.  The 1901 Census reveals a family of Busby’s living in “Old Orbiston Road” in the Bellshill district.  The transcript of the census return currently available online doesn’t appear to identify which house in Old Orbiston Road the Busby family lived.

The head of the family was a 66-year old coal miner Alexander.  He had a son – or perhaps a grandson? – also called Alexander, who was 13 at the time of the census.  This teenage Alexander, who would have been about 22 in 1909, is presumably Matt’s father.

Alexander is clearly something of a family name in the Busby family.  Officially, Matt was Alexander Matthew Busby.  In its report on the Busby Shield match, The Bellshill Speaker notes that Sir Matt’s son is a Sandy – a common short form for Alexander.

Matt’s father fought in the First World War. Private Alexander Busby, S20225, of the 7th Batallion, Queens on Cameron Highlanders, was killed in action in France on 23 April 1917.  He is commemorated  at The Arras Memorial at Faubourg-D´Amiens Cemetery, Arras.  The (somewhat damaged) military records that can be accessed for him online specifically record Matt and his sisters as his children and next-of-kin.  Matt’s birthday of 26 May 1909 is also noted.

Alexander’s British Army Enlistment Attestation, dated 7 September 1914 – within days of the declaration of war, confirms that he had been a miner and gives his family’s address as “26 Old Orbiston”.  So where is “Old Orbiston” today?

Orbiston appears to have undergone significant redevelopment in the 20th century.  There is an Orbiston Road that borders Bellshill Golf Club.  Matt is also commemorated in the naming of the nearby Busby Road and the Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex in Bellshill town centre.

But Google Maps doesn’t recognise “Old Orbiston” or “Old Orbiston Road”., a website that records the history of Scottish mining, reveals that the Summerlee Iron Co Ltd which ran the Orbiston Mine in 1910 owned 191 houses in five clusters in the area.  Two of the clusters are described as “New Orbiston Rows” and “Old Orbiston Rows”.  If the latter included the birthplace of Matt, the website gives us a picture of the home he was born into:

1. Old Orbiston Rows:-

16 One-apartment houses Rental £5 6s

16 Two-apartment houses Rental £7 7s

* One storey, brick built, back to back – Erected about 70 years ago – no damp-proof course – Plastered on brick – Brick floors in kitchen, worn and dilapidated, wood floors, unventilated, in rooms of two-apartment houses – Many internal walls damp, and plaster crumbling

* No overcrowding – apartments large

* No garden ground – no wash houses – no coal cellars

* One ashpit and two privies at end of row; one ashpit and two privies at rear of back row; one ashpit between rows

* No sinks – drainage by open channels

* Water supply from standpipes in front

* Scavenged at owners’ expense

via 1910 Housing – Scottish Mining Website.

From humble beginnings…

So although Old Orbiston Rows have disappeared from modern maps, Sportinglandmarks is grateful to a number of local people who share an interest in locating Matt’s birthplace.

At the end of 2012, Sportinglandmarks was contacted by Graham Bell from Orbiston. Graham noted that Busby’s home was situated on land now occupied by the Orb pub on Orbiston road. He suggested that a wall from the row of houses stood for a number of years and a wall from one of the other Orbiston Rows can still be seen further along Strachan Street, incorporated into lockups garages.

In August 2013, Alexander Lochars kindly share the fruits of his own diligent research which has included contacting local authorities and heritage centres.  By overlaying the 1913 Ordnance Survey Map on its modern equivalents, the Planning and Building Standards Services of South Lanarkshire Council located Old Orbiston just under half a mile to the south of the Orb Pub. See Alexander’s input in the comments below.

A number of possibilities come to mind for the discrepancy between the house numbers recorded in the 1911 Census seen by Alexander Lochars (but not by Sportinglandmarks) and the Matt’s father’s Army records. As the Busby’s lived in property rented from the Summerlee Iron Co, its not impossible that they may have moved, or been moved for some reason.  Another plausible possibility is that whoever completed the enlistment form – its not clear whether its in Alexander Busby’s own writing or that of the attesting officer – may have incorrectly noted the house number.  As Busby enlisted in the very early days of the War, the recruitment centre was likely to have been very busy.



Matt himself has an Olympic connection in that he was manager of the Great Britain football team at the 1948 Games in London.  As a Scot, it would be fascinating to hear Busby’s view of the initial plans for an all-English “British” team for London 2012.

Other sporting connections

Wikipedia cites a 1996 TV documentary that claimed that both Jock Stein and Bill Shankly – two other football managers who distinguished themselves in European tournaments – were born in Bellshill.  Yet the Wikipedia entries for Stein and Shankly tell a slightly different story.

Stein, who twice managed Celtic including when they became the first British club to win the European Cup in 1967, was born on 5 October 1922 in Burnbank, (South) Lanarkshire. Another former mining village, Burnbank is about three miles from Orbiston and Bellshill.

Shankly led Liverpool to its first European trophy, the 1973 UEFA Cup, and laid the foundations for five European Cup wins.  He was born in Glenbuck, (East) Ayrshire, on 2 September 1913.  As the crow flies, Glenbuck is around 25 miles due south.  Nevertheless, its quite remarkable that three managers that made such an impact on soccer during the 1960s and 70s should all come from such a small area.

Bellshill has continued to contribute to top-flight football. Celtic legend Billy McNeil (1940), John Reid (1947) the former government minister and Chairman of Celtic and Ally McCoist (1962) former player and current manager at Rangers were also born in Bellshill.

With this propensity to create footballers, the question is, is there is some strange property in the local water?  If so, Britain’s rowers and other water sport enthusiasts should take note!  Just across the Bellshill golf course from Orbiston is Strathclyde Park which hosts the National Rowing Championships every three years or so.  The loch was also the venue the last time rowing was officially part of the Commonwealth Games in 1986.  Having won three Commonwealth gold medals – in the single scull, coxless pair and coxed four – Steve Redgrave can add the distinction of having been a reigning triple Commonwealth Games champion for more than 20 years to his more widely remembered Olympic titles.

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