|Full name||Wishaw Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||Wishae or Wishy|
Wishaw, North Lanarkshire
|League||West of Scotland League Conference C|
|2020–21||West of Scotland League Conference B (season abandoned)|
Wishaw Football Club (previously known as Wishaw Juniors) are a Scottish football club based in the town of Wishaw, North Lanarkshire. The club currently competes in the West of Scotland League Conference C.
The club traces its origins back to the mid 1880s and a team called Wishaw Thistle. At that point in the development of football there were no Leagues and football clubs played challenge matches against other clubs or in Cup competitions. Local newspapers and other sources refer to two football teams named Wishaw Swifts and Wishaw Thistle playing in the town. The older team 'the Swifts' is recorded as participating in the Scottish Football Association 'Scottish Cup'. At that time it was common for Club second string teams to play under a different name and it appears that Wishaw Thistle originated as an offshoot or a second string side of the Swifts. For many years it was generally accepted that the Thistle began playing in 1885 but recent research suggests this may have been earlier. There are however no definitive records available and outwith Scottish Football Association records, local newspapers such as The Wishaw Press, The Motherwell Times and The Hamilton Advertiser, are the main sources of reference. In Scotland, as football became more established as a playing and spectator sport the terms Senior and Junior appear to have developed as a means to distinguish the older better established Clubs (with more supporters) from newer ones. The Thistle appear to have been regarded as being 'Juniors' from the outset and playing less illustrious opponents whilst The Swifts were regarded as being 'Senior' and participated in the SFA Scottish Cup. The Swifts disappeared from records later in the decade and their place in the SFA Scottish Cup was taken by the Thistle.
Wishaw Thistle is understood to have started playing in 1885. League football was still in the future and football was mostly friendlies against teams from neighbouring communities. However, Lanarkshire was one of the first Counties to set up a 'Junior' FA and the Thistle were to dominate the newly established Lanarkshire Junior Cup winning this in 1885/86, 1886/87 and 1887/88. The Scottish Junior FA was formed in 1886 with Wishaw Thistle being founder members. The new National governing body promptly instituted its own National Cup competition and Wishaw were strong favourites to win the new competition. It was not to be however and the club had to wait until the following year before lifting the Scottish Junior Cup. The Thistle then decided that the club's future lay with the rapidly growing senior game and the club 'turned senior'. Wishaw missed out in the formation of the Scottish Football League in 1890. However, in 1891/92 Thistle were (along with Lanarkshire neighbours Motherwell and Albion Rovers) founder members of the Scottish Football Federation which was the second senior football league to be established in Scotland.
When the Scottish Football League expanded to two divisions Wishaw did make several unsuccessful attempts to seek election to the 'Scottish Football League Division 2' losing out in 1895/96 to now long-defunct Linthouse by a single vote after 3 ballots. (note – local rivals and neighbours Motherwell FC were successful in the same ballot and the history of the two neighbouring Lanarkshire clubs took very different paths thereafter). Wishaw however remained a 'Senior' club mainly competing in the Scottish Football Alliance, Scottish Combination and Scottish Union Leagues with a single season in the Scottish Reserve league in 1910/11 (playing against the second string sides of Rangers, Hearts, Aberdeen, Partick Thistle etc. The club also competed in various Senior Cup competitions including the Scottish Cup itself reaching the 4th round on one occasion. It was also successful in winning the Lanarkshire Senior Cup on several occasions competing against Motherwell, Airdrieonians, Hamilton Academicals and Albion Rovers amongst others. The larger Scottish league clubs however eventually forced changes to the Scottish Cup requiring smaller clubs to qualify for the competition and clubs the size of Wishaw found themselves slowly being squeezed out. Possibly Wishaw's most notable success after that was defeating Arbroath FC 2 – 1 in the Consolation Cup Final.
The First World War had a dramatic effect on football but the club managed to continue to operate for a time, sometimes fielding 'guest players', i.e. service personnel who had been players with top English sides such as Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, but were stationed locally. Wishaw Thistle's Club Captain, William Angus of Carluke who had also turned out for Glasgow Celtic, was to see action in France very early on in the war and was awarded the Victoria Cross for what was described as the most heroic deed ever by a British soldier in rescuing his officer, Lt William Martin (also from Carluke) on 12 June 1915 at Givenchy-lès-la-Bassée. William Angus was badly injured in the course of the rescue and although retaining a keen interest in football throughout his life – later being president of Carluke Rovers – he was unable to resume playing. After being presented with his medal by King George V, the injured Angus returned to Scotland a National Hero and was presented to packed attendances at Parkhead (Glasgow Celtic) and Ibrox Park (Glasgow Rangers) receiving standing ovations at each stadium.
When football re-commenced at the end of World War I Wishaw Thistle attempted unsuccessfully to restart as a senior club then appears to have re-invented itself as a Junior club in the form of Wishaw YMCA Juniors bringing to an end over 30 years of Senior football in the town.
During its Senior years, Wishaw Thistle won a number of trophies and played host to visiting English Clubs Liverpool, Everton, Stoke, Sunderland and Notts County in friendly matches. It also took part in the Invitation Football Tournament at the 'International Exhibition' held by Edinburgh City Council to commemorate the opening of the world-famous Forth Railway Bridge and also played against many of today's current senior Scottish clubs in the S.F.A. Scottish Cup including, on one occasion hosting Glasgow Celtic in Wishaw. A number of the club's players went on to play for more illustrious clubs. One player, David Calderhead, was later to become manager of Chelsea F C, a position he held for about 25 years; he is credited with turning the London side from being a relatively small club into a major force in the English game.
Wishaw Thistle was a well-supported club in an era when football was growing rapidly as a spectator pastime and high four- and even five- figure crowds were not uncommon for major matches.
Wishaw's football club started its second 'incarnation' as a 'Junior' Club under the name of Wishaw YMCA Juniors in 1919–20 as members of the Scottish Junior League, enjoying early success in winning the Scottish Junior League Victory Cup and also the Hozier Cup (named after Lady Hozier, wife of Sir Winston Churchill). A second Hozier Cup was added the following season. The name was then shortened to Wishaw Juniors in 1924 and the club switched to the Lanarkshire Junior Football League.
The club were then one of a large number of rebel clubs which broke away from the Scottish Junior FA in the bitter player contract based 'Intermediate dispute' in the late 1920s – playing for several seasons in the East Division of the Western Intermediate League before returning to the Junior fold once again after the dispute was resolved in 1930–31 as members of the Lanarkshire Junior League where the club remained until World War II.
The war had a major impact on football across the country with many clubs and Leagues closing down – many never to return However, Wishaw managed to continue in operation, competing in the short-lived Lanark and Lothians League which lasted during the War years with a number of Lanarkshire teams joining with their counterparts in West Lothian. During this period Wishaw reached the final of the East of Scotland Cup and have the unusual claim to be the only team to have played in the Scottish, West and East Cup finals. The Club also won the St Michael's Cup one of the most prestigious trophies played for by East Junior Clubs. After the end of the War, Wishaw returned to the Lanarkshire Junior League when it reformed.
Re-organisation of Scottish Junior football in 1968 saw the end of the Lanarkshire Junior League which had been losing clubs as junior football declined with the remaining Lanarkshire clubs joining with those from the greater Glasgow area to form the Central Junior Football League. Although Wishaw did start out in the top 'A' Division of the new Central Junior League, being one of the stronger Lanarkshire sides – for various reasons the club was unable to sustain its position and dropped to the bottom 'C' division where it remained for a number of years.
Further re-organisation of Junior football saw the Central League amalgamate with the Ayrshire Junior Football League to form the SJFA West Region in 2002. The club once again found itself stranded in the bottom tier of an expanded 'Regional' structure playing in the Central District Division 2. After struggling for most of the next dozen seasons, Wishaw finally achieved promotion out of the bottom Division in 2013/14 under then manager John McKeown. McKeown was to leave shortly thereafter to take over as manager of top Ayrshire side Cumnock Juniors.
It has been many years since Wishaw tasted success but despite the club's current lower league status it has nevertheless managed to reach the Sectional League Cup Semi-finals in each of seasons 2014–15, 2015–16 and 2016–17 and the Semi-final of the prestigious West of Scotland Junior Cup in 2015–16. In season 2017–18 Wishaw belied their third tier status by reaching the semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup losing by a single goal in a two-leg tie against Ayrshire side Hurlford United.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Wishaw suffered a prolonged period in the junior football 'wilderness' during which the club not only lost its home ground and most of its support base but also came close to folding completely on several occasions. The club's home town suffered significantly from the 1970s onwards with very high rates of unemployment following the demise of traditional industries locally particularly that of steel making and heavy engineering. Eventually a small group of enthusiastic volunteers took over the running of the club in the early part of the current century and despite very restricted budgets, slow but steady progress was made in rebuilding the club on and off the pitch.
After moving to a new home at The Beltane, Wishaw finally secured promotion out of the bottom tier of the S.J.F.A. West Region in season 2013/14 under then manager John McKeown who left the club shortly thereafter to take over as manager of Cumnock Juniors. The club moved quickly to secure a replacement and from October 2014 until August 2017 were managed by former Dunfermline Athletic midfielder, Chris McGroarty. Despite losing several key players, Chris was successful not only in keeping the club in the 1st Division in his first season but also in building an attractive team which was to mount a serious challenge for further promotion in season 2015/16, only to miss out on this by a single point. The team started season 2016/17 well and having been drawn against Cumnock Juniors at home in the 1st Round of the Scottish Junior Cup then defeated the Premier League side by two goals to nil. However, the club failed to end the season in a promotion position.
In August 2017 Chris McGroarty and his assistant Glen Weir and coach Mark Daly left the club to join Kilsyth Rangers. Wishaw again moved quickly to appoint former professional footballer John Brogan as their new manager. Brogan played for Scottish senior clubs St Johnstone (where he was that club's record goal scorer), Hibernian and Hamilton Academicals and also had extensive appropriate managerial experience having managed several other Junior Football clubs. Brogan resigned in February 2018 and was replaced by former Hearts striker, Derek Holmes. Wishaw were then managed by Kieran McGuinness, assisted by Barry Fraser and Paul Finnigan until resigning in Dec 2019 citing other commitments. The club then moved quickly bringing back the former McGroarty, Daly, & Weir management team with Mark Daly taking the manager role.
Wishaw has had a number of home grounds down the years and has played at Stewarton Street, at the Old Public Park (off Main Street) and at the original Belhaven Park (better known as the site of the former Wishaw Dog Track and originally the home of the Town's long defunct cycling club) but for most of its existence the club was based at Recreation Park at Kirk Road, Wishaw. The ground, which had banked terracing, a grandstand and a covered spectator area and Social Club was lost to the club in the early 1990s and thereafter Wishaw became homeless sharing with Coltness United at Victoria Park, Newmains for a number of years until 1999 when they secured tenancy at Wishaw Sports Centre. This agreement did not work out though and they returned to sharing with Coltness. Wishaw then secured a second deal to play at the Sports Centre, before moving into the nearby Beltane Park for the beginning of the 2011–12 season.
|Location||Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, Scotland|
The Beltane, as it is known locally, is likely to be the team's home for the foreseeable future. Originally just an open public pitch, the Club's enthusiastic small committee has managed to develop The Beltane into a mini stadium despite only having a very modest budget. The ground is fully fenced off and offers a mixture of hard and grassed standing accommodation for c1,000 persons with Ladies and Gents toilets, Snack Bar, Hospitality Facility, a covered wheelchair viewing platform and a small covered enclosure for 50/60 persons. The Beltane was opened on 28 July 2012 with a match against a Motherwell F.C XI. For a number of years the record attendance was 300 set in a West of Scotland Cup tie against Ayrshire junior giants Auchinleck Talbot which was won 3–2 by the home team despite a three-division gap between the two clubs. However, this was surpassed by an attendance of c650 persons who attended a first leg semi-final of the Scottish Junior Cup on Saturday 14 April 2018.
In 2010, Wishaw Juniors secured a 10-year lease to use Beltane Park as the home ground. Since then, the once open-grassed area has been transformed into a football ground, with terracing along the east side of the ground, and fencing around the whole pitch. Also recently installed at the venue are toilets, a snack bar, a players lounge and dressing rooms, with each of them based in portacabins.
The ground had a capacity of around 500 spectators when officially opened on 28 July 2012, when Wishaw played the under-17's of the local senior side Motherwell.
The club had an under-19 side (now disbanded) and a women's team, which was originally formed in 1995 and has had its name changed several times. It was originally Wishaw Ladies then Lanarkshire Ladies and then Motherwell Ladies Football Club until it was changed to, Wishaw Juniors Ladies. The ladies team folded midway through 2011.
As a Junior Club;
As a Senior Club:
Down the years approximately 150 Wishaw players have moved on to senior professional football clubs in Scotland, England and further afield. Several of these were involved in major trophy success as players, management and backroom staff. Two former players Bobby Moncur (Newcastle United captain) and Jimmy Gordon (as Part of Brian Clough's management team which won the European Cup twice With Nottingham Forest) enjoyed successes in the major European football club competitions. Others continued to play their football at Junior level and enjoyed success with Wishaw being capped also for the Scottish Junior FA International team.
1. FORMER PLAYERS AWARDED JUNIOR INTERNATIONAL CAPS
2. FORMER PLAYERS AWARDED FULL SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CAPS
3. FORMER PLAYERS WITH OTHER INVOLVEMENT IN INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL
4. FORMER PLAYERS WITH INVOLVEMENT IN EUROPEAN CLUB COMPETITIONS
5. PLAYERS WHO HAVE PLAYED AND/OR MANAGED IN SENIOR FOOTBALL
6 PLAYERS TRANSFERRED / ETC to Senior Clubs before WWII INCOMPLETE LIST
7 PLAYERS TRANSFERRED ETC TO SENIOR CLUBS POST WWII INCOMPLETE LIST
8 BITS AND PIECES
In the previous round it took four games to separate Wishaw and Shotts United with a total of 26,500 watching the matches the last being hosted at Fir Park (Motherwell FC).
9. In Progress