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Club History

Some Historical Notes

By Fraser Clyne

1878: Arbroath Football Club was formed in July 1878 following a meeting in the George Hotel, Commerce Street. The club’s roots date back to earlier that year, however, when a group of Arbroath rugby players invited the Dundee football club, St Clements, to play in a demonstration game at the Low Common. St. Clements won the game 4-0. The newly formed Arbroath FC played its first official game at Woodville in September 1878 when Our Boys, Dundee were beaten 3-0 in a Scottish Cup tie. Bruce, Milne and Alexander were the scorers and the team was:- W. Schollay, J. Devlin, Cowie (or Edwards), J. Milne, W. Mill, Bruce, Alexander, W. Steele, R. Meffan, D. Salmond, J. Scott.

The first regular home pitch was established on the Hospitalfield Estate opposite the Faces between the sea and railway line.

1880: Acquisition of Gayfield (former refuse dump). The first game at Gayfield was a 2-1 Scottish Cup win over Rob Roy of Callander

First club captain: John Devlin was invited to play for Rangers. Along with Billy Steele, he later joined Bolton Wanderers (first Arbroath players to move south).

1882: Maroon strips worn for first time. The club previously played in narrow black and white hoops.

1883: Forfarshire Football Association formed: 18 teams joined, including two from Arbroath. The first Forfarshire Cup Final was in December 1883 and Arbroath  beat Dundee Harp 2-1 at Rollo’s Pier. Attendance: 5000.

1884: Arbroath defeat Rangers 4-3 at Gayfield in a Scottish Cup match but the visitors complained that the pitch wasn’t wide enough. The SFA orders a replay and Rangers win 8-1

1885: Professional football legalised in Scotland.

1885: Arbroath 36, Bon Accord 0 – a world record score that stands to this day. Jocky Petrie scored 13 goals – also a record which remains unmatched.

1886: Goalkeeper Ned Doig makes his debut for Arbroath

1887: Doig capped by Scotland (the only player in the club’s 125 year history to have been capped whilst on Arbroath’s books).

1888: Arbroath win the Forfarshire District Charity Cup by beating Montrose 6-0.

1890: During the 1890’s many Arbroath players headed south to seek fame and fortune with English professional clubs and other top Scottish sides. These transfers included:- Ned Doig to Sunderland; David Willocks to Bolton; David Skea to Villa (Skea played just one game for Villa, a 4-1 win over Notts County on 31st December 1892; he scored one of the Villa goals), David Storrier to Everton.; Sam Meston to Stoke; Willie Maxwell to Hearts and then Stoke; Albert Buick to Hearts and later Portsmouth; Dave Nicoll to Bolton; George McWattie to Queen’s Park

1891: First general meeting of the Northern League was held in Mather’s Temperance Hotel (later the Tay Hotel) on Saturday 4th April 1891. Eight clubs were elected: Arbroath, Montrose, Forfar Athletic, Our Boys, East End, Harp (all Dundee), St. Johnstone and Aberdeen.

1892: First Northern League season was 1891-92 and the first title was shared by Our Boys and East End. Arbroath finished fifth. It was also decided to increase membership from eight to ten and Johnstone Wanderers (Dundee) and Victoria United (Aberdeen) were elected for season 1892-93.

1893: Arbroath win the 1892-93 Northern League title

1895: Arbroath lost 4-2 to Annbank (after 0-0 draw) in the semi final of the first Scottish Qualifying Cup..

1898: Arbroath win Dundee and District Charity Shield, beating Dundee Wanderers

1899: Arbroath lose 5-2 to Galston in the Qualifying Cup Final at Hampden Park.

1903: Arbroath win the Scottish Qualifying Cup by beating Albion Rovers 4-2 at Dens Park

1909: Arbroath beaten in final of Scottish Consolation Cup by Wishaw Athletic

1909: Formation of Central League. Arbroath played in it, but retained membership of Northern league

1911: Arbroath reach final of Dewar Shield for first time, but lose to St Johnstone.

1912: Arbroath beaten in final of Qualifying Cup by Abercorn of Paisley.

Jack Pearson and Alec Milne  sign for Tottenham

1915-1918: Official football suspended in April 1915 following outbreak of World War One. Arbroath FC closes down.

1919: A skeleton Central League got underway but Arbroath were excluded.

The Lichties then gained admission to the Scottish Alliance – composed of mainly reserve teams of league clubs.

1920: A benefit game for Jocky Petrie was held when Arbroath hosted Forfar Athletic at Gayfield.

1921-22: Arbroath beat Johnstone 3-1 in the first Scottish league match played at Gayfield. Two players were sent off (Donnachie of Arbroath and Harvey of Saints) and police were called to stop a near riot when fans invaded the pitch. The Lichties finished the season in 16th position from 20 clubs in Division Two.

1925: In the last game played at old Gayfield Arbroath defeated King’s Park 2-1.

1925: First game at “Greater” Gayfield: East Fife win 4-2. Arbroath’s first victory at the new ground was a 5-2 win over Queen of the South, with Johnny Slavin grabbing a hat-trick.

1928-1929:Arbroath achieve their highest ever finishing position since joining the Scottish League when finishing third behind Dundee United and Morton in Division Two

1934: Manchester United sign 21 year-old George Mutch for £800. He later scored the winning goal for Preston in an FA Cup Final and he was capped by Scotland.

1934-1935: Arbroath finish second to Third Lanark and clinch promotion to the First Division under the captaincy of Colin McNab. Goalkeeper George Cumming is the star player, conceding just 42 goals in 34 games and achieving 15 shut-outs –  the best record in the whole Scottish League. In October 1936, after much transfer speculation, Middlesborough paid £3000 for his services. It was a record fee for a Scottish goalkeeper. He was later capped.

1935-39: This was one of the most successful spells in the history of the club. Arbroath maintained their First Division status, finishing 11th (1935-36), 14th (1936-37), 11th (1937-38) and 17th (1938-39) from 20 clubs.

1940-1945: Arbroath Football Club effectively closed down for the duration of World War Two. When the Scottish League started again at the end of the War, the Lichties were shocked to find themselves put into the Second Division despite having been in the First Division prior to the outbreak of hostilities.

1945: A dinner for Bob McGlashan is held at the Seaforth Hotel to mark his 50 years service to the club as player, trainer, secretary and manager. McGlashan left the club in February 1946 to be replaced by Arch Anderson.

1946-47: Arbroath are beaten 2-0 by Aberdeen in the semi final of the Scottish Cup in front of 22,000 at Dens Park. It’s the only time the Lichties have reached this stage of the competition. The Dons defeated Hibs in the final. The Lichties finished the season third from bottom of the B Division.

1947: George Leuchars retires from the club after 54 years service as player, trainer and groundsman.

1948-49: Club chairman Provost John Lamb is elected President of the SFA.

1949: Death of Bob McGlashan

1949-50: Former Aberdeen, Chelsea and Scotland player Alec Cheyne appointed manager to replace Arch Anderson who moved to Ayr United

1951: Quickest goal ever at Gayfield?: On January 6th Arbroath’s Jimmy McEwan scored after just 10seconds against Dumbarton.

1951-1952: Gayfield’s record attendance of 13,510 watches Arbroath lose 2-0 to Rangers in a Scottish Cup tie. Willie Thornton got both the goals. In the league, Arbroath finished bottom of B Division.

1952-53: Arbroath again draw Rangers in the Scottish Cup, losing 4-0 in front of 44,000 at Ibrox.

1954: A proposal to relocate Gayfield to a site between Keptie Woods and Lochlands cricket ground was dropped.

1954-55: Alec Chyene resigned as manager at the end of the season and  was not replaced. Long serving captain Tommy Gray was asked to pick future teams.

1956: The first floodlit match is played at Gayfield – a Forfarshire Junior Select defeating an Arbroath X1 by 4-3

1956-57: Club captain Chris Anderson, later to become a director of Aberdeen FC, links up with Tommy Gray to take responsibility for team affairs.

1957-58: Tommy Gray leaves for Dundee United leaving Chris Anderson in charge. Anderson had retired from playing because of injury.

1959: Dave Easson, in his first season at Gayfield, finished the season with a record 52 league and cup goals to top the UK scoring charts and help the Lichties win promotion to the First Division by finishing second to  Ayr United in the league

1959-60: Arbroath reach the semi final of the League Cup but lose 3-0 to Third Lanark at Ibrox. The maroons finished bottom of Division One

1960’s – The Beginning of the Henderson Era

1960-61: John Prentice takes over as manager, but striker Dave Easson is transferred to Raith Rovers.

1962: Albert Henderson is appointed manager after John Prentice’s resignation. Dave Easson returns to Arbroath.

1963-64: Arbroath finish third in Division Two but Dave Easson breaks his leg. Its an injury from which he never recovered. He eventually retired in 1965.

1964-65: Club chairman Hugh Nelson becomes President of the SFA. Arbroath’s second string win the Combined Reserve League.

1966: Tom Cargill makes his debut for Arbroath. He went on to make a record 445 appearances between then and 1981.

1967-68: Albert Henderson leads Arbroath to promotion to the First Division. Jimmy Jack and Dennis Bruce are the goalscoring heroes, notching more than 60 goals between them.

1968-69: A tough season in the top division ends with the Lichties finishing at the foot of the table.

1971-72: Arbroath win promotion back to the First Division. Jimmy Jack, the club’s all-time highest league goalscorer, is transferred to Falkirk. Tommy Walker joins Airdrie for a Second Division record fee of £16,000.

1972-73: Derek Rylance scores a hat-trick in a League Cup 3-3 draw with Celtic at Hampden Park. Arbroath retain First Division status by finishing 15th of 18 teams.

1973-74: Another good season as the Lichties finish 13th. The highlight is a 3-2 win at Ibrox – the first Arbroath league victory away to Rangers. Two goals from John Fletcher and one from Billy Pirie secured the points.

1974-75: In the final season before league reconstruction, Arbroath finish bottom of the old First Division. The top ten clubs formed the new Premier League. The Lichties reached the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup but went out to eventual beaten finalists Airdrie after a replay.

1975-76: Arbroath finish fifth in the new First Division.

1976-77: Arbroath again reach the Scottish Cup quarter finals but lose 3-1 at home to Dundee.

1979-1980: Albert Henderson is sacked after 17 years 4 months in the post. Ian Stewart takes over but the Lichties finished second bottom of the First Division and are relegated – they would not return to this level until 2001.

1981: Arbroath pay a club record fee of £20,000 for Dougie Robb (Montrose).

1981-82: Arbroath miss out on promotion to the First Division by the narrowest of margins. The Lichties and Alloa finish on 50 points, but the Wasps go up with a superior goal difference.

1982: Manager Ian Stewart, who took over from Albert Henderson, is sacked and replaced by George Fleming.

1982-83: The Lichties again finish third and so miss promotion.

1984-85: A bleak season – Lichties finish rock bottom of Division two

1985: George Fleming sacked, Jimmy Bone takes over.

1987: Jimmy Bone left to join St Mirren and is replaced by  John Young..

1990’s – The Dark Ages

1990: John Young sacked after the Lichties fail to get out of the bottom reaches of the league

1990-91: Arbroath again finish rock bottom.

1991: Manager Ian Gibson sacked.

1991: Manager Walter Borthwick leaves to take up SFA post.

1992: Manager Mike Lawson sacked in November, Danny McGrain takes over. He becomes instantly popular and is followed by the “Bearded Army”.

1992-1993: Arbroath reach the quarter final of Scottish Cup but are beaten 3-0 at Gayfield by Rangers.

1993: Striker Paul Tosh is transferred to Dundee for a club record fee of £120,000. Celtic beat Arbroath 9-1 in the League Cup – its the Lichties record defeat.

.1994: Manager Danny McGrain leaves because of illness after 14 months in charge. .Jocky Scott takes over

1994: Jocky Scott resigns after just 14 games in charge.

1994: Donald Park and George Mackie are appointed co-managers, but Park subsequently leaves to become a coach at Hibs.

1994-95: Further reconstruction of  Scottish football. There is now a Premier Division, and First, Second and Third Divisions. Arbroath begin life in the new Third Division and finish seventh of the ten teams in the first season.

1995: George Mackie sacked. John Brogan takes over.

1996: Arbroath play Bon Accord for the first time since 1885. The Aberdeen junior side, looking to avenge the 36-0 drubbing of the Victorian era, were beaten 4-0. Shortly afterwards, John Brogan is sacked as manager with the club lying second bottom of the league. Tommy Campbell appointed new boss.

1996-97: Arbroath finish bottom of the league gain. Tommy Campbell leaves Arbroath in May 1997 to take over as manager of arch rivals Montrose. Dave Baikie, who led Tayport to Scottish Junior Cup success, replaces him.

1997-1998: Dave Baikie leads Arbroath to promotion from Division Three, finishing second behind Alloa Athletic.

2000: Dave Baikie resigns and is replaced by former Hibernian and Scotland full-back John Brownlie

2001: Arbroath return to the First Division for the first time since 1980 after finishing second to Partick Thistle in the league.

2003: Relegated to Second Division after two seasons in the First. Early in the new season, John Brownlie resigns as manager with the club struggling near the foot of the table. Stevie Kirk  takes over and retains place in 2nd Division

2004: After poor starting to season and heavy defeat at Forfar Stevie Kirk resigns and Harry Cairney takes over but fails to fend off Relegation to the Third Division.

2005: Another poor start to the season sees Harry Cairney resign with the team second bottom at the end of August and John McGlashan takes over as Manager. We finish 4th in the league and following a draw at Gayfield we lost to Alloa at Recreation Park to go out of the play-offs at the semi-final stage.

2006: Finished Third Division Runner Up but lost to Queens Park in the play-off at the semi-final stage.

2007: Finished 4th but won promotion through the play-offs beating Cowdenbeath in the semi-finals and Stranraer in the final.

2008: Finished 7th in the Second Division

2009: After a stuttering start to the season, Jim Weir replace John McGlashan as manager but failed to guide the Lichties past Junior Club Irvine Meadow in the Scottish Cup where we los 1 nil. We finished ninth in the table and lost to Forfar Athletic in the final of the play-offs to se us return to the Third Division. Jim Weir resigned as manager at the end of the season to go to Brechin and Paul Sheerin was appointed player manager.

2010: The Club appointed Paul Sheerin as player manager and following some ambitions signings the Club won their first ever Championship when they picked up the Scottish Third Division Trophy following a 4-1 victory over local rivals Montrose at Gayfield. Paul Sheerin won the Third Division manager of the year, Gavin Swankie won the Third Division layer of the Year and Josh Falkingham picked up the Third Division Young layer of the Year Award.

2011: The Club finished 2nd in the Scottish Second Division following a close fight with Cowdenbeath for the Championship. We lost to Dumbarton in the play-off semi-finals.

2012: The highlights of the season was two matches against Celtic in the Scottish Cup. We held them to a 1-1 draw at Parkhead thanks to a late Stevin Doris equaliser and despite a battling performance at Gayfield we went down to the only goal of the match. Our form in the league was hot and cold and we lost out to Forfar Athletic in the fight for the fourth position play-off place in the last game of the season when we lost to Alloa at home.


©Fraser Clyne

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