Motherwell Football Club was formed after the amalgamation of two local amateur sides based at industrial factories, Glencairn and Alpha. Glencairn started up around 1877 and took their name from John Glencairn Carter Hamilton of Dalzell. Alpha FC was first organised in 1881 by workers at George Russell’s Aplha Steam Crane and Engine Works, situated in the towns’s Park Street. In 1886, a Motherwell Charity Cup was organised which would include a friendly match between a team from Glasgow and a select chosen from the town’s two top teams, Alpha and Glencairn. Even before this there had been suggestions that the two Motherwell sides should combine, and indeed on Monday 17th May 1886 representatives of both clubs met and formed a new club to be called “Motherwell Football Club”. Motherwell continued to play their home matches at Alpha’s pitch at Roman Road, 50 yards from Merry Street, and it was there Motherwell defeated Hamilton Accies 3-2 in their first game. In 1889 Motherwell were forced to move to a new home to allow further house building in Roman Road. The new home was a pitch off Airbles Street at Parkhead Street called “Dalziel Park”, and Motherwell’s first game there saw Rangers being held to a 3-3 draw. At the club’s AGM of 1893 it was decided that the club should turn professional, and when the Scottish League formed a second division, Motherwell were one of ten clubs elected. In their first league game Motherwell defeated Hamilton 4-1. It was in 1895 when Lord Hamilton granted a lease for a piece of land at the northern end of the large Fir Park on his Dalzell Estate’s northern edge, and Motherwell moved to the home which they still occupy today. A crowd of over 6,000 saw Motherwell’s first game at Fir Park at the start of season 1895/96, Celtic ungraciously winning 8-1. Season 1902/03 saw ‘Well finnish runners-up in the league and promoted to the First Division.
Season 1912/13 saw the Motherwell players turn out in the racing colours of Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, namely claret and amber, for the first time (previously blue had been worn). After the First World War, Motherwell began to establish themselves as more of a force in Scottish Football, reaching the cup quarter-finals on five occassions before being semi-finalists in 1923, and finishing in third place in the league in 1920. Motherwell’s greatest period began in season 1926/27 – for the next seven seasons they were always in the top three, winning the league for the one and so far only time in their history in 1931, finishing five points clear of Rangers. Willie McFayden scored 52 goals during the season, giving him the Scottish League record. Cup finals were reached in 1931, 1933 and 1939 but each ended in defeat, before both the league and cup were suspended after the outbreak of World War Two.
Motherwell’s first major cup success came in 1950 with victory in the League Cup, Hibs being beaten 3-0 in the final. After another losing final in 1951, the Scottish Cup jinx was finally laid to rest the following year when 136,274 fans saw Motherwell beat Dundee 4-0 at Hampden to lift the cup for the first time. The fourth round replay of this competition saw 35,600 squeeze into Fir Park, Fir Park’s record crowd, as the ‘Well beat Rangers 2-1. Bobby Ancell took over as manager in 1955 and built the team into the famous “Ancell Babes”, featuring players like Charlie Aitken and Ian St. John. No major trophies were won during the Ancell era, although the team did include a large number of internationalists. The money generated from the transfer of St. John to Liverpool in 1962 was used to replace the tiny Fir Park grandstand with the large cantilever construction which still serves to this day. The bare girders at its southern end still bear testimony to the property owner who obstructed its completion. After Ancell left the club in 1965, several mediocre seasons followed culminating in relegation in 1968, although Motherwell were immediately promoted as champions the following year. The early seventies saw ‘Well compete in the Texaco Cup, recording memorable wins over Stoke and Spurs before the Premier League was introduced in 1975/76.
Motherwell’s first Premier season was a good one, finishing fourth, but they were relegated in 1979 and spent the early eighties moving up and down between the Premier and First Divisions. Several managers came and went during this period before Tommy McLean was appointed in 1984, with Motherwell back in the First Division. McLean’s first season saw immediate promotion as Champions and Celtic being taken to a replay in the Scottish Cup Semi-Final. Stability was achieved under McLean and the club gradually progressed, culminating in winning the Scottish Cup in 1991, beating Dundee Utd 4-3 in a memorable final – ‘Well’s first major trophy in 39 years. This triumph also resulted in Motherwell entering the European Cup Winner’s Cup, their first involvement in European Competition, although they went out in the first round to Katowice of Poland on the away goals rule. After guiding Motherwell to a UEFA cup place in season 1993/94, McLean surprisingly resigned and was replaced by Alex McLeish. In his first season in charge, McLeish led Motherwell to their highest league placing for sixty years when they finished runners-up to Rangers, and hence claim a place in the UEFA cup for the second year running.
As a result of the Taylor Report, Fir Park has undergone many changes in recent years. The covered enclosure opposite the Main Stand was seated in 1991, and the 4,800 capacity visitors stand was completed in 1993 at the south end of the ground. Finally, the north terracing was demolished in 1994 and replaced with a single tier stand, named the Davie Cooper Stand following the death of the club’s former player in March 1995. With an all seated capacity of 14,400, Fir Park can now claim to be one of the finest provinvial stadia in the country.