BY CRAIG STEPHEN
It can only be imagined that the trophy room at the Proact Stadium isn’t overburdened with the weight of silverware.
But the home of Chesterfield FC will most likely forever be the final home of the trophy awarded to the winners of a cross-border competition that lasted in two formats throughout the 1970s.
The Spireites were the unlikely last winners of the Anglo-Scottish Cup before the competition was ditched due to a feeling that the English sides weren’t taking it seriously, something that is hard to argue when Chesterfield were the winners.
But that surprise win did include a victory over a star-studded Rangers side – delivering the Glasgow side its most humiliating defeat since the infamous Scottish Cup exit to Berwick Rangers in 1967.Embed from Getty Images
The Anglo-Scottish Cup might have lacked the likes of Celtic, Liverpool or Manchester United, but it did feature virtually everyone else at some point.
It also has the ‘honour’ of being among the first competitions to introduce a company name to the feted crown, beaten only by the Watney Cup which was established as an English pre-season competition in 1970.
A year later the Texaco Cup was set up, with the carrot of £100,000 too tempting to resist.
The oil-financed trophy involved the top teams from England, Scotland and the two Irelands, outwith those who had qualified for European competitions, using a knockout format.
The English teams in that first season of the Texaco Cup included Wolves, West Brom, Spurs and Nottingham Forest; Scotland’s best were Hearts, Dundee and Motherwell, while the Irish contingent included Derry City and Shamrock Rovers. Matches were played in the same week as the European competitions, over two legs with penalty shootouts to settle drawn ties (again something that was first introduced by the Watney Cup).
In this heyday of Scottish football, just four seasons on from Celtic winning the European Cup, two Caledonian sides made the semi-finals.
Airdrieonians knocked out Nottingham Forest on penalties, Morton saw off West Brom, Motherwell overcame Stoke and Hearts got the better of Burnley. Spurs lost out 5-4 on aggregate to Motherwell in the quarter-finals.
As this ‘Well fan notes on FirParkCorner.com match-ups like this were like striking gold for the Lanarkshire side:
“That night Spurs came to Fir Park with two players who played for England in the Mexico World Cup of 1970 (Peters and Mullery), along with other internationals such as Gilzean, Chivers and Mike England.Embed from Getty Images
“28,000 were there to see if Motherwell could overcome a 3-2 deficit from the first leg. This task looked even more impossible when Spurs scored in the first twenty minutes, but a rousing fightback and goals from Heron, Donnelly and Watson clinched the tie, and ensured a night never to be forgotten by the other ten and eleven-year olds present.”
In the semi-finals, Hearts ended Motherwell’s giant-killing run, but the Edinburgh side were no match for Wolves in the final. The Midlanders won 3-1 at Tynecastle on 14 April 1971 and, despite a 1-0 home defeat, ran out 3-2 aggregate winners.
This was a golden season for the Black Country side, which gained its best league placing for over a decade – fourth – therefore qualifying for Europe and unable to defend their title. There would be consolation; they reached the next season’s UEFA Cup final.
Sky Blues banished
There were some interesting developments in subsequent seasons. In the second year, Manchester City forfeited their £1,000 entry deposit and were banned from the cup for two seasons for fielding nine reserves against Airdrie, who reached the final losing to Derby County.
The competition shrunk when all the Irish clubs withdrew from the 1972-73 renewal due to security concerns, and the Cup became a Scottish and English only competition.
The 1973 extravaganza delivered a dream final for the East of England: bitter rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City had battled their way to the final – Ipswich by beating St. Johnstone (during a glory era for the Perth side), Wolves and Newcastle; Norwich by way of Dundee, Leicester City and Motherwell.
It had already been a great season for the Suffolk side who had qualified for the UEFA Cup after finishing fourth in the league.
The two legs were played inside three days and more than 65,000 people attended in total. Peter Morris scored twice at Portman Road, but a late Clive Payne goal for Norwich made it tight going into the second leg. At Carrow Road, Trevor Whymark and Clive Woods earned Town another 2-1 victory.
The Texaco Cup was hit by the three-day week and enforced power-cuts during the 73-74 season. With the government insisting that all matches be played in daylight, attendances fell. The final between Newcastle United and Burnley, therefore, was reduced to a single match held at St James’ Park.
The following season saw a radical overhaul but one that failed to save it. There was now a regional pre-season round robin stage for the English teams, which had now grown to 16 clubs, with Second and Third division clubs invited to make up the numbers. The four Scottish clubs didn’t have to compete until the quarter-finals. It didn’t help those clubs, as for the first time, they were all beaten.
Newcastle won their second Texaco Cup, with a 4-0 aggregate win over Southampton. Unlike previous years when the final was held in the spring, this was over by Christmas.
With Texaco having left the scene the competition took on a new name. It wasn’t the first competition between clubs from both countries per se.
The British League Cup was played for in Glasgow in 1902 featuring both the winners and runners-up of the respective national leagues, it was won by Celtic.
The 1938 Empire Exhibition Trophy and the 1953 Coronation Cup were also both held in Glasgow, both featured the best four teams in Scotland and England and both were won by Celtic, who clearly rose to the challenge posed by English clubs.
In September 1959 St. Mirren met Nottingham Forest met in a two-legged affair. While neither programmes carry a trophy name on their covers, the Buddies’ website refers to it as the Anglo-Scottish Cup Winners Challenge. The Paisley side returned home with a 3-2 victory at the City Ground and held their opponents to a 2-2 draw at home for a famous 5-4 aggregate victory. It was the beginning of a love affair for St. Mirren in the various cross-border challenges.
From the 74-75 season the Texaco Cup reverted from its pure knockout format to one that would remain largely the same until its demise. The English sides played in qualifying groups of four with the Scottish sides being protected till the knockout stages. There were more English sides than Scottish, but the numbers would change over the seasons, with one year having nine English and seven Scottish sides.
The first Anglo-Scottish Cup format mirrored that of the Texaco Cup in its final season and also carried over the bonus point awarded for three goals scored in a match. The inaugural Cup was lifted by Middlesbrough who defeated Fulham 1-0 over two-legs in December 1975 for the first trophy in the club’s history.
Boro attracted 15,000 people for the first leg, much lower than their average attendance for the season of 23,000. Fulham fans, however, seemed to have more enthusiasm for the event, as 13,750 fans turned up at Craven Cottage – a stark contrast to their average attendance of 9,750 for that season.
But it was obvious that some teams were taking the competition more seriously than others. During the 1976-77 season, Newcastle were kicked out for fielding a weakened side against Ayr Utd in the quarter-finals and fined £4,000 by the Football League. While this sent a message that the Anglo-Scottish was to be taken seriously, it also suggested to clubs, especially English ones, that there may not be much reason in bothering to enter.
It may be an obvious statement to make in saying that the Scottish teams showed remarkable commitment to the competition. Here, after all, was an opportunity to show their supposed betters that Scottish football wasn’t what it was perceived to be. Yet, commitment and passion can only take you so far, and the trophy was only won by a Caledonian side on one occasion.
That was despite the possibility of facing a top-flight team from the south diminishing. In the 1979-80 season only two of the 16 English teams were from the First Division and six were from the old Third Division.
However, Scotland supplied six top-flight sides.
The strongest of those was St. Mirren, who with stars like Doug Somner and Billy Stark, finished third in the league to gain an unlikely place in Europe.
The Buddies comprehensively beat Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Utd – including a 4-0 win at Bramall Lane – on the way to the final with then First Division Bristol City. This was a repeat of the 1977 final won by the Bristolians 3-2 on aggregate.
Stark struck twice in the West Country while Somner gained a brace in Paisley as they wrapped up an impressive 5-1 aggregate victory.
But the competition’s days were numbered.
The fact that Third Division Chesterfield were the last man standing may confound the theory that the trophy had been belittled but the Spireites punched above their weight, recording a famous win on their march to the title.
The Derbyshire side were a late addition, getting in because Sunderland withdrew on the eve of the kick off.
They held Rangers to an excellent 1-1 draw at Ibrox but it was expected that the Gers would overcome their lowly foes in the return at Saltergate.
The Chesterfield blog Sky is Blue, Clouds are White recalls the arrogance of the then manager, John Greig.Embed from Getty Images
“In the press he was confident to the extent of a patronising arrogance. He described Colin Tartt as the worst full-back in Europe. What the condescending Scottish press did not realise was that this was probably the best Chesterfield side in the last forty years and that it was playing at its peak.”
Rangers were no longer the powerhouse they once were but were still strong enough to win domestic cups during the so-called New Firm era of the late 70s/early 80s.
This would rank among their worst evenings as the blog gleefully retells.
“The several thousand Scottish fans present saw Rangers humiliated. Phil Bonnyman, born in Glasgow and released by the Rangers, hit a brace while Ernie Moss got the third.”
In the final, the Spireites faced a Notts County side containing Scottish international Don Masson, former Arsenal star Eddie Kelly, and 17-year-old Brian Kilcline. Each side won 1-0 at home, and in extra time, sub Alan Crawford back-heeled the ball past the goalkeeper for the winner.
Our wistful writer on Sky is Blue celebrated it like they had gained a place in Europe.
“I do not remember what the Derbyshire Times made of the match but The Chesterfield Star had a great write-up. I was eighteen and about to leave home, this match meant a lot to me.”
While this was a fairytale come true, it also revealed the lack of big names.
The Scottish teams withdrew afterwards claiming the English teams weren’t taking it seriously enough and the competition was wound up.
A few years later there was a curious attempt to partially resurrect it in a two-legged tie between the winners of the respective FA Cups.
They were St. Mirren and Coventry City. Both clubs had good reason to contest the Anglo-Scottish Challenge Cup – St. Mirren had a fine record in the Anglo-Scottish, as we have seen, while Coventry were denied a place in the European Cup Winners’ Cup that season due to the ban on English clubs.Embed from Getty Images
But without sponsorship there were always going to be financial issues. Holding the first leg at Highfield Road on 22 December 1987 was perhaps not the wisest choice of dates. Just over 5,000 people braved the cold for that first leg which ended in stalemate. David Phillips’ first half strike was cancelled out by Kenny McDowell’s reply on the hour mark.
The second leg was due to be played at Love Street on 22 March but with after the underwhelming first leg, it never took place.
A largely forgotten attempt at a British Cup took place in the UAE in the late 80s.
The first Dubai Super Cup took place on 9 December 1986 at the Al Wasl Stadium with SPL title winners Celtic taking on English champions Liverpool in front of a 15,000 crowd.
“The first-half was a rather hum-drum affair, devoid of real talking points and even the Anglo-Scottish factor rivalry couldn’t raise excitement levels too high,” recalls CelticWiki.
Owen Archdeacon netted for the Bhoys early in the second half, but Scotland defender and future TV grouch Alan Hansen grabbed a late equaliser. There was no extra-time and the Anfield side won 4-2 on penalties.Embed from Getty Images
The same sides met again in April 1989, for the renamed Dubai Champions Cup (but also dubbed the Gold Champions Cup and the Gold Cup by different media outlets), before a much-reduced crowd, and after goals from Mark McGhee and John Aldridge, Celtic won 4-2 in the shoot-out.
In between, a second competition was held in December 1987, with Rangers beating Everton on penalties after they had finished 2-2 after 90 minutes. The Glasgow side should have secured the match in regular time, but Welsh whistler Keith Cooper displayed an apparent dislike of the Scottish blues, disallowing no less than six goals for the eventual winners.
There is constant talk of the respective League Cups being ditched for one trophy being contested by both Scottish and English sides but that appears to be nothing more than that – talk.
However, as I noted in my piece on the Irn Bru Cup, the tournament has increasingly become a pan-Celtic tournament with the recent inclusion of teams from Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Now, the SFA has moved to broaden its geographical remit even further by including two English non-league sides from this season.
That may the closest we will ever see to having a Battle of Britain, outwith occasional European ties, such as the forthcoming Europa League qualifying tie between Burnley and Aberdeen.
1971: Wolves bt Hearts 3-2 agg
1972: Derby County bt Airdrieonians 2-1 agg
1973: Ipswich Town bt Norwich City 4-2 agg
1974: Newcastle Utd bt Burnley 2-1 aet (one-off match)
1975: Newcastle Utd bt Southampton 3-1 agg
1976: Middlesbrough bt Fulham 1-0 agg
1977: Nottingham Forest bt Leyton Orient 5-1 agg
1978: Bristol City bt St Mirren 3-2 agg
1979: Burnley bt Oldham athletic 4-1 agg
1980: St Mirren bt Bristol City 5-1 agg
1981: Chesterfield bt Notts County 2-1 agg
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