The official website for European football

History: Motherwell FC

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2001, 17.03CET
Motherwell have come a long way since they were known as Wee Alpha Motherwell in the 19th century.
Published: Wednesday 22 August 2001, 17.03CET

History: Motherwell FC

Motherwell have come a long way since they were known as Wee Alpha Motherwell in the 19th century.
Motherwell were originally called Wee Alpha Motherwell, following a merger in 1885 between two factory sides in the town to the east of Glasgow - Glencairn FC, who had been founded in 1877, and Alpha FC, formed in 1881.

Fir Park home
The club became Motherwell FC in 1886 and their first game was a 3-2 victory over Hamilton Academical FC. They turned professional in 1893, joined the Scottish second division and within two years had moved to their current home, Fir Park, after land was granted by Lord Hamilton. Celtic FC won the ground-opening match 8-1 but that was soon forgotten as Motherwell gained promotion to the top flight in 1903.

Champion performers
Ten years later, the club settled on their colours of claret and amber - the racing colours of Lord Hamilton’s stable - and after the first world war they began to establish themselves as a force in Scottish football. From the 1926/27 season onwards Motherwell finished in the top three for seven successive seasons, winning their first - and so far only - Scottish league title in 1932, thanks to 52 goals by Willie McFayden, still a league record in Scotland.

Cup specialists
Motherwell also reached three Scottish Cup finals in the 1930s, losing to Celtic FC in 1931 and 1933 (4-2 and 1-0 respectively) and also 4-0 to Clyde FC in 1939. They continued to do well in the cup competitions in the 1950s. In 1951 they reached the final of both the Scottish Cup (losing 1-0 to Celtic FC) and the Scottish League Cup (losing 3-0 to Hibernian FC), before bouncing back in style in 1952 to win their first Scottish Cup, beating Dundee FC 4-0 in the final.

St John sale
In 1955 Motherwell again reached the League Cup final, only to lose 4-2 to Heart of Midlothian FC. However, the arrival of Bobby Ancell as manager in the same year was to herald another fine - albeit trophy-less - decade, with players like Ian St John and Charlie Aitken. The subsequent sale of St John to Liverpool FC financed major construction work at Fir Pirk, but after Ancell's departure in 1965, the club faded and the next few decades saw them flitting between the top two divisions.

Second Cup win
The rot only really stopped under Tommy McLean with Motherwell's second Scottish Cup success – a 4-3 win against Dundee United FC after extra time in the 1991 final. That triumph earned them a place in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup but unfortunately their debut in Europe was short-lived as they lost on away goals against GKS Katowice in the first round.

Sole success
McLean's successor, Alex McLeish, took Motherwell to their best league finish for 60 years when they finished third in 1994. Two more European campaigns followed during this period but Motherwell's sole success remains the 7-1 demolition of HB Tórshavn, of the Faroe Islands, in the qualifying round of the 1995/96 UEFA Cup.

2001/02: Eleventh in Scottish league.

Last updated: 15/11/12 16.06CET

Related information

Team profiles features

Facing challenges and embracing change - Aleksander Čeferin
  • Facing challenges and embracing change - Aleksander Čeferin
  • Women's game in UEFA Direct spotlight
  • Discover UEFA's competitions
  • European legends join UEFA as football advisors
  • Zero tolerance for match-fixing
  • We’ve made some changes to the official UEFA site
  • Real Madrid's Germany hoodoo: four wins in 30
  • Great UEFA club competition two-legged comebacks
  • Greatest UEFA Champions League comebacks
  • Hope for Arsenal and Barça? Great comebacks
1 of 10