Scotland’s football hotbed is the home of its national stadium, Hampden, and the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers, rooted in the city’s religious divide. It has also witnessed a number of notable moments in European football history, such as a sublime display by Real Madrid in 1960 and Zinedine Zidane’s stunning goal for the same club in 2002. These were both finals of Europe’s premier trophy – in 2020 Hampden will be one of several venues to host the European Championships.
The demise of Rangers in the summer of 2012, demoted to the fourth flight after their financial meltdown, broke the near complete domination of the Old Firm on the Scottish game. Until then, Celtic and Rangers had occupied the top two positions every year but one since the formation of the Scottish Premier League in 1998.
Now Rangers are back after four years in the wilderness. The Old Firm derby, arguably the fiercest in world football, underpinned the Scottish Premiership fixture list in 2016-17. As a taster, the two clubs met in a pulsating Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden in April 2016, won by Rangers 5-4 on penalties.
Rangers’ four-year absence from the top flight allowed the likes of Motherwell, representing an industrial town south-east of Glasgow, to shine in the Scottish Premier League. Even St Mirren, representing nearby Paisley, by Glasgow Airport, picked up, albeit temporarily.
Also competing in the Scottish Premiership are Glasgow’s de facto third side, Partick Thistle, based in Maryhill. In 2014, Hamilton Academical made a dramatic return to the top flight by beating Hibernian on penalties – this after trailing the Edinburgh side 2-0 after the first leg at home.
Glasgow is fringed by a dozen or so lower-league clubs who attract no more than a few hundred to their modest grounds every Saturday.
Queen’s Park are the exception, being not only based in Glasgow itself, but at Hampden Park. The Glorious Hoops, as they are known, were footballing pioneers and are thought to have even created the modern game. As many football historians concur, Scotland invented football because Scotland invented passing. While footballers south of the border were simply booting the ball until they lost possession, in the early 1870s the venerable Queen’s Park club were adept at a passing game that was later adopted in Europe.
All this is proudly illustrated in the excellent Scottish Football Museum, aptly housed at Hampden itself.
Glasgow Airport is 11km (7 miles) west of the city. The No.500 (£6 single, £8 with further bus travel) is one of several buses to run into town. A taxi would take around 20 minutes and cost £20.
Some airlines use Prestwick Airport, 51km (32 miles) from the city in Ayrshire, the only spot on British soil that Elvis Presley graced. Air passengers receive a 50% discount for the 50-minute train to Glasgow Central station, used for all main-line services.
Central Glasgow is easily walkable. The city is served by one underground line, overland rail and a complex network of privatised buses. If you’re roving, a Roundabout ticket (£6.30) is handy for all transport use after 9am.
All information can be found at Traveline Scotland. Black taxi cabs (+44 141 429 7070) are plentiful and reliable.
The Glasgow Visitor Information Centre provides hotel bookings.
At Glasgow Central, the four-star Grand Central is the definitive railway hotel, recently benefitting from a £20 million facelift. Also close, the Carlton George is a good base as are the Rennie Mackintosh and the luxurious Grasshoppers. Also convenient, Jurys Inn Glasgow offers 300-plus comfortable rooms. The nearby Radisson Blu is another quality chain choice, with a pool and sauna.
For the lively Merchant City, the Mercure Glasgow City Hotel is handy, close to buses for Celtic Park and with its own late bar.
Handy for the airport but halfway to town, the Glasgow Pond Hotel is also close to Partick and within easy reach of Ibrox.
Glasgow and pubs are synonymous. Of the hundreds that show football, the most famous (and most convenient, right by Glasgow Central) is the landmark Horseshoe Bar. Don’t let the website put you off – this is Glasgow at its best.
For a mixed, lively crowd, live music and a large screen TV for sports – the ideal spot, in fact – look no further than McChuills. It takes its St Pauli seriously, too.
In the Wetherspoon chain, the spacious Crystal Palace shows TV football within easy reach of Glasgow Central, around which you’ll also find the Sir John Moore. Nearby, pool and snooker hall Reardon’s also shows TV sports, while the Royal Scot offers plenty of TV football plus a beer garden in summer.
Finally, if you’re heading back from Glasgow Airport, Central is a handy sports bar through departures.
According to every apparent source, football’s first international was played on St Andrew’s Day 1872, between Scotland and England at the West of Scotland Cricket Club, Hamilton (or West Hamilton) Terrace. Though the cricket club is still there, no Hamilton (or West Hamilton) Terrace exists. Today, it’s Peel Street, a short walk from Partick subway/rail. West Hamilton Terrace was bombed in the war.
This story is told at The Stumps pub (7 Peel Street) nearby, where illustrated background on that historic day is presented in fuller detail at the back of a chatty neighbourhood local.
The clubhouse at the sports ground is less effusive, its large main bar almost entirely dedicated to cricket but for a small display – and even that has been donated. No plaque, no sign, no memento.
Still, this is, as it was then, a quiet local cricket ground, not affected in the least by its modest role in football history.