You Couldn't Make It Up!

by Jack Little

Thistle's Scottish Cup tie at Cathkin on 7/9/1889 wasn't without incident. With 20 minutes to go, a goalmouth scramble saw Thistle's captain "winded". Enraged by Thirds playing on, the crowd spilled on to the pitch and it took the police 18 minutes to restore order. Several Third Lanark players received minor injuries at the hands of Thistle supporters. The players were escorted off at the final whistle. Thistle were trailing 3-1 at the time but history doesn't record if this was a genuine outpouring of Victorian Corinthian spirit or a cynical attempt to get the match abandoned. In the end it didn't matter - Thistle lost 3-2. The SFA appeals committee met on 17/9 to consider Thistle's appeal that two Third Lanark players were, in fact, professionals. They claimed that Lapsley had signed for Sunderland Albion FC the previous May and had received a payment and that Johnston had received a payment from Sunderland FC. They also claimed that on winning the Scottish Cup, Third Lanark had played Sunderland FC and had received a payment for doing so. In short, Third Lanark were a professional club. Lapsley said he would return the money and Johnston admitted he had signed professional forms but had not accepted the payment. The Third Lanark committee said they were in "entire ignorance" that their club had ever played Sunderland (!). Thistle had their appeal money forfeited and their appeal was dismissed. ("Dundee Advertiser" 18 September 1889.) The "Glasgow Evening Post" reported that a large crowd gathered outside the SFA offices in Glasgow's Waterloo St and that when it was known that Third Lanark had been found innocent "every man leaving the meeting was mobbed" and "jubilation reigned supreme". The article posed the question "Can no way be found to keep the street clear at such meetings?". On 28 September (quoting "Athletic News") the "Glasgow Evening Post" claimed the SFA had not treated Thistle fairly and that the whole affair was a whitewash. They claimed Thistle had spent £50 (about £6,000 today) on legal fees yet their solicitor had not been allowed to present their case at the appeal meeting. The saga continued with letters to the press (including an open letter to the SFA from the club) and a second appeal was lodged at the SFA meeting in October but the SFA refused to discuss the matter. It was three years before Thistle played Third Lanark again. Perhaps it was just as well.

Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Jun-2020.

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