We’re on the road, for only the second time – The story of Celtic’s away venues

Celtic’s second away game involved a trip east to Airdrie – to a venue that enjoys a notable place in the history of world football.

On 11 August 1888 – ten days after the Bhoys’ first away game – Celtic were again on the road, this time playing their first ever game outside of Glasgow.

This involved an eastwards journey to Lanarkshire to meet Airdrie, who played at Mavisbank Park in the town.

What was described by The Scotsman as “an immense crowd” – other newspapers estimated 2000-3000 fans – were in attendance to watch “the newly formed Irish combination of the West of Scotland.”

The site of Celtic’s second ever away match.

The Celtic line-up featured many of the club’s most important early players: Dunning, McKeown, Collins, W Maley, Kelly, McLaren, McCallum, Coleman, Groves, Coogan and Connor.

One of the Airdrie men later had a small Celtic claim to fame. In season 1892-93, forward Robert Scott made his one Celtic appearance as they beat Rangers 3-0, in a match which proved vital to the Bhoys winning their first league title.

The match was due to start at 4.30pm, but due to the large crowd, the match did not begin until around 5pm. Celtic started and dominated early proceedings but were continually thwarted by Connor in the home men’s goal.

Eventually however the Celts’ made the breakthrough. Neil McCallum – scorer of the Bhoys’ first ever goal – claimed the title of first goalscorer outside of Glasgow.

Match report, The Scotsman – Monday 13 August 1888


At half-time, the Celts led only 1-0, but this reasonably balanced scoreline would soon disappear. Soon after kick-off, Willie Groves made it 2-0 “which was greeted with deafening applause by the large number of Irish sympathisers present.”

The Airdrie defence soon found itself being picked apart as “repeated assaults were made” by the Celts. Four more goals were added, two of which came in the final minute. Newspapers do not record the scorers although some accounts suggest that Willie Groves scored five.

Whilst the Celts were happy with their trip – it was their first win and clean sheet outside Glasgow – not everyone was as pleased.

One journalist fumed that “A good deal of Rowdyism prevailed among the spectators … and the language and conduct of many of the partisans of the visitors in the field and on the grand stand was simply disgraceful.”


Whilst Mavisbank Park has a small part in Celtic history, the venue has a much more important position in the story of football; it was the site of the world’s first penalty.

Three years after the Bhoys’ trip to Lanarkshire – in August 1891 – Airdrie welcomed local rivals, Royal Albert of Larkhall to Mavisbank.

Just four days earlier, International FA Board (meeting in Glasgow’s Alexandra Hotel) had agreed to introduce penalty kicks, as a means of stopping cynical last ditch fouls.

On 6 June, 1891, the two Lanarkshire sides fought out the final of the Airdrie Charity Cup. Within fifteen minutes “the referee pulled up Mitchell [of Airdrie]for throwing Lambie, and granted a foul under the new law.”

Airdrie Charity Cup

What is believed the world’s first penalty kick was scored by Royal Albert’s James McLuggage. It eventually helped his side to a 2-0 win, and the awarding of the cup.

Fans were said to be confused by the new rule – expecting defenders to form a wall to stop the shot – and the Airdrie Advertiser even had to include a diagram to explain what had happened.

Matthew Marr

Follow Matthew on Twitter @hailhailhistory

Click on cover to order hardback copy.

Matthew’s debut Celtic book titled ‘The Bould Bhoys – Glory to their name’ was published by Celtic Star Books earlier this year and is available to order HERE or you can pick up a copy at any official Celtic store. This brilliant book is also available on Amazon Kindle for just £3.49 and includes all photo sections that appear in the hardback edition.

About Author

Matthew Marr first started going to see Celtic in the 1980s and has had a season ticket since 1992. His main Celtic interest is the club's history, especially the early years. In 2023, Matthew published his first Celtic book, telling the story of the Bhoys' first league title. He also runs Celtic history walking tours.

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