Celebrating Celtic, Scottish Champions for the very first time

The Bould Bhoys! ‘Glory to their name’…This season marks 130 years since Celtic were first crowned League champions of Scotland.

It’s fair to say that football has changed in lots of ways since then.

In a Celtic sense, the most obvious difference concerns the strip. In the 1890s the Bhoys did play in green-and-white – but it was stripes, not hoops (which wouldn’t happen until 1903). It’s not clear if “C’mon the stripes” would have ever had the same ring to it.

Matches themselves would have looked different too. In more modern times, football formations have tended to focus on 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, and now there seems to be a range of ways a team can line up, even changing during matches.

1890s football was altogether more attacking. 1-1-8 or 1-2-7 systems were not unknown, as teams rushed the ball forward to their attackers. However in 1892-93, the most common system – and that used by Celtic –was the 2-3-5.

This involved two backs (the name for defenders) and three half-backs (midfielders) in front of them. The main midfielder was known as a centre half, which of course now means a defender. Up front there was five forwards – an outside right, inside right, centre forward, inside left and outside left.

Refereeing was also very different from the modern day. Games did have a referee and two linesmen, although these were called other names, including touch judges and umpires.

The referee was a representative from another club not involved in the game. The linesmen would be drawn from both clubs that were playing. For example, in a Celtic versus Hearts game, Celtic and Hearts would each provide a linesman, whilst the referee might come from a club such as Third Lanark.

Rules were also unusual compared to modern expectations.

Goal nets were not officially required, although that rule changed in Scotland in 1893. Celtic complained that they lost the Scottish Cup Final when the ball didn’t go between the posts but was given as a goal, leading to reform.

Penalty boxes also did not exist at this time. Instead a line was drawn across the full length of the pitch and any infringement in this area (especially handball) could result in a penalty. Furthermore, goals could not be scored direct from free kicks.

So, all in all, football was a very different in 1892-93. But one thing hasn’t changed since then – Celtic were crowned champions at the end of the season.

Matthew Marr

To read the full story of Celtic’s first ever league title, buy the book ‘Walfrid and the Bould Bhoys!’ Glory to their name’ by Matthew Marr which will be published next Friday, 24 March 2023 and is available to pre-order from Celtic Star Books now. Thanks you to everyone who has already pre-ordered, your beautifully produced hardback book will be signed next Friday and posted out straight away. We will also launch an Amazon kindle version on 24 March for those who prefer to read books digitally.


READ THIS...‘The Bould Bhoys – Glory to their name’ by Matthew Marr

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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