The birth of international football: England v Scotland, 1870
You won’t find the match in the official records, as it was organised by the Football Association without any input from Scotland – the ‘visiting’ team comprised solely players with Scottish roots living in London. There were five such ‘unofficial’ contests over the next couple of years before the fixture was established on a more conventional basis, the first of the accepted internationals being held in Glasgow on 30 November 1872.
Arthur can claim to be Scotland’s first ever team manager. With his Scottish heritage, he and civil servant James Kirkpatrick were given the task of selecting the players to face England.
The first public announcement of the game was an advert buried in the pages of the Sportsman newspaper:
From the Secretary of the Football Association
A match between the leading representatives of the Scotch and English sections will be played at The Oval on Saturday 19 February, under the auspices of the Football Association. Players duly qualified and desirous of assisting either party must communicate with Mr AF Kinnaird of 2 Pall Mall East, SW or Mr J Kirkpatrick, Admiralty, Somerset House, WC on behalf of the Scotch, or with Mr Charles W Alcock, Boy Court, Ludgate Hill, EC or Mr RG Graham, 7 Finch Lane, EC on the part of the English.
The appeal brought forward a flurry of responses from Scots eager to take part, giving Arthur Kinnaird and James Kirkpatrick a strong team. Then a severe frost in London (the upper reaches of the Thames froze over) forced a postponement of a couple of weeks, with two of the original selection having to drop out because of prior appointments. This is how the teams lined up at Kennington Oval that March afternoon:
England: Charles Alcock (Old Harrovians, captain), Edward Bowen (Wanderers), Alfred Baker (No Names), William Butler (Barnes), William Crake (Harrow School), Evelyn Freeth (Civil Service), Edgar Lubbock (Old Etonians), A Nash (Clapham Rovers), JC Smith (Crusaders), Alfred Thornton (Old Harrovians), Robert Vidal (Westminster School).
Scotland: James Kirkpatrick (Civil Service, captain), Arthur Kinnaird (Crusaders), William H Gladstone MP (Old Etonians), Robert Crawford (Harrow School), Charles Baillie-Hamilton (Civil Service), William Baillie-Hamilton (Old Harrovians), William Lindsay (Old Wykehamists), John Malcolm MP (London Scottish Rifles), Kenneth Muir-Mackenzie (Old Carthusians), George Gordon (No Names), Alexander Morten (Crystal Palace).
On a ground that was slippery because of recent rain, the teams were well matched and after 45 minutes there was no score. The sides changed ends, an innovation to the rules which had only been agreed the previous months.
The match turned on a disastrous tactical decision by Charles Alcock to move his goalkeeper upfield in support of the forwards. Robert Crawford, a schoolboy at Harrow, took advantage of this absence and his shot from distance (also described as a ‘lucky long kick’) found the empty goal to give Scotland the lead with just 15 minutes left. The sides changed ends again, giving England the benefit of the wind as they tried with increasing desperation to get back on level terms. The Scots held firm against their onslaught until the final minute when Alfred Baker, ‘by one of the finest runs that have ever been witnessed’, dribbled his way through the Scots defence to shoot home the equaliser. Thus the world’s first football international ended in a 1-1 draw.
Over the years, there have been accusations that some of the Scotland players were only selected for tenuous reasons, such as having a shooting estate in the Highlands, but new research shows that all of them – with the possible exception of one late replacement – had genuine Scottish heritage, and would have qualified for Scotland under modern regulations, which allow for eligibility base on birth back to grandparent level.
The full details will be revealed in a subsequent book, but here is a quick summary of their Scottish roots:
James Kirkpatrick: born in Dumfries.
Arthur Kinnaird: born in Hyde Park Gardens, London, his father was born in Rossie Priory, Perthshire.
William Gladstone (son of the Prime Minister): born in Hawarden Castle, Wales; both his father’s parents were born in Scotland, in Leith and Dingwall.
Robert Crawford: born in Elizabeth Castle, Jersey; his mother was born in Dunbar, East Lothian.
Charles Baillie-Hamilton: born in Greenwich, Kent, his paternal grandfather was born in Mellerstain, Berwickshire; his maternal grandmother was born in Dumfriesshire.
His brother William Baillie-Hamilton: born in Brighton, Sussex, had the same heritage.
William Lindsay: born in Benares, India, his soldier father was born in Dundee.
John Malcolm: born in Stratford Place, London, his father was born in Poltalloch, Argyllshire.
Kenneth Muir-Mackenzie: born in Delvine, Perthshire.
George Gordon: born in Kensington, London, both parents were born in Banff.
Alexander Morten: born in Paddington, London. The team goalkeeper was a late replacement for the original selection, Robert Ferguson, and it has not yet been possible to establish any Scottish links; he did act as Scotland’s umpire in the next unofficial international, but played for England against Scotland in 1873.
As for the English, research is ongoing, but Thornton and Crake were born in India, while Bowen was born in Ireland. Truly a cosmopolitan mix of the Empire!
Arthur Kinnaird continued to select, and play for, the Scotland team for two subsequent internationals in the 1870-71 season. The match reports pictured here come from his personal cuttings book, in which he kept a record of all the games he played in the early part of his career. He missed the 1871-72 season as he was on a tour of India, visiting the charitable missions established by his mother; then in 1872-73 he returned to action, not only winning the FA Cup with Wanderers, but also gaining his only ‘full’ international cap for Scotland in March 1873. He was in such good form that the Football Annual described him as: ‘Without exception the best player of the day; capable of taking any place in the field; is very fast and never loses sight of the ball. An excellent captain.’