1885 - The Scottish Cup Final

1885 was the fifth time Vale of Leven, "The Vale", had reached the Scottish Cup Final. For Renton it was just the second and the first had been a decade earlier. However, Renton were a team on the rise under the patronage of Alexander Wyilie, the locally-based, part-owner of the successful Cordale dye-works. It had moved into its Tontine Park ground in 1878 and from 1883 began to forge a promising team. Vale of Leven, on the other hand, had an aging eleven partly inherited from the very successful and experienced team of the late 1870s. It meant they were well-matched and so it proved to be.  

They met for the first time on 21st February at the first Hampden Park at Glasgow's Crosshill. The weather had been cold, the pitch frost-rutted. It was blowing a gale. The Vale won the toss and took the decision to defend into it in the first half. And Renton did much the same in the second. It must have been cold and tedious for everyone, those on the pitch and the 8,000 looking on.

However, two things were noticeable. The lighter, nimbler Renton forwards were said to have passed well under the wind and in that second half they turned to a five-man defence, in a first, noted, Scottish, top-flight use of 2-3-5 or even 2-1-2-5. But more than that it made obvious that the club was experimenting tactically.    

The encounter ended in a goalless draw and the two teams returned for a second try a week later.  The weather had improved and so did the game with this time Renton clearly the better. Its half-backs, Bob Kelso and Donald McKechnie, back in a 2-2-6 were particularly praised for their contributions. There was also an early example of gamesmanship, a Renton forward kicked the ball away at a free-kick to give team-mates more time to, as we would say today, "get in front of the ball". But still for sixty-five minutes stalemate persisted. That is until McCall, said to be not James, the forward, but elder brother, left full-back, Archie, stepped up, at which point the game opened up. Ten and seventeen minutes later one of the centre-forward pairing, McIntyre, Andy or Alex is unclear, popped in two more. And whilst The Vale pulled back a single consolation at the last gasp to make it 3:1 the Scottish Cup had a very important new name engraved into it. 

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