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115 Years of the Hampden Roar

Yes Hampden Park is 115 years old today!

A million people have marched on the road to Hampden. Families and friends together have enjoyed glorious moments that last a lifetime, heartbreaking last minute goals and visions which, at times, are never easily erased. For generations of football fans, Hampden Park in Glasgow has been the home of Scottish football- a field of dreams shared by the masses. There was a time where Hampden was, quite simply, the biggest and best football stadium in the world. For a large part of the century, the greats of the world game appeared at the Mount Florida ground, amazed by the crowds in the terracing, with such passion and affections for clubs and country.

Hampden is also the oldest International football stadium in the world. Indeed, the origin of the name ‘Hampden’ takes many by surprise. The name comes from a English Parliamentarian Civil War soldier, John Hampden, who fought for the Roundheads in the 17th century. A terrace of houses bestowed the Hampden name which overlooked the 1st site of Hampden Park , down the recreation parks beside the Victoria hospital. The Queen’s Park committee felt the name appropriate and also for their second ground, which would later be renamed ‘Cathkin Park’; the future home of Third Lanark.

The popularity of football and the dominance of Queen’s Park allowed the committee of the Spiders to foresee correctly the success of what a new ground could bring.  In 1903, Queen’s Park bought the land in Mount Florida and built and new fortress. The opening match was on 31st October; a Glasgow derby Queen’s Park v Celtic.  Celtic’s bold bid to claim the win was halted by the passion and a revival of form that would see Queen’s Park run out 1-0 winners at their new home, in a truly spirited match. A taste of the many to follow on the new born turf. After the match the Evening Times gave its critique of the new ground stating:

“It is admittedly a ground for the greatest things, grand in conception and great in area, and only the greatest success can be deemed adequate reward for the enterprise which rendered such an enclosure possible.”

The Scottish Cup final would move in with Queen’s Park in 1904. Out of the 133 Scottish Cup finals, there have been 90 played at Hampden. Wonderful finals have been constested in the tournament, memorable ones that come to mind are Rangers v Dundee in 1964, Motherwell’s triumph over Dundee United in extra-time in 1991, and the underdogs of Gretna taking on the might of Premiership side Hearts to a penalty shootout to narrowly be beaten in 2006.

The Scottish FA too seen the vision of a potential, fantastic stadium which would be fitting to the national team. Scotland would begin to play home matches at Hampden’s new site in 1906. Since then, Scotland have played 246 matches at Hampden- winning 128 of them. Scotland fans have been through every human emotion known to man down Mount Florida way. The strong dominance over England in the early 20th century. The near miss against Czechoslovakia in the play-off for the 1962 World Cup finals. Joe Jordan’s header, against the same nation, to clinch qualification to the 1974 World Cup. Kenny Dalglish ruining Ray Clemence’s afternoon with his winner against England in 1976. Ally’s army seeing off the squad to Argentina in 1978. James McFadden’s countless moments of magic. Leigh Griffith’s spectacular free-kicks into the Auld Enemy’s goal. The so close, yet so far, matches halting progression to a major finals.

Kenny Dalglish scoring against England at Hampden in 1976.

The Scottish League Cup final would join in the party in 1947. Out of the 72 Scottish league Cup finals, 64 have been played at Hampden. Similar to the Scottish Cup, the League Cup has seen the unthinkable happen. Partick Thistle thrashing Celtic 4-1 in 1971, Livingston winning the trophy against Hibs in 2004, St Mirren defeating Hearts in the 2013 final and Ross County winning their first major trophy in 2016 after overcoming Hibs in the final.

In consecutive Saturdays in 1937, Hampden Park established two records which will never be surpassed. On 17th April 1937 the first all ticketed Scotland match attracted an attendance of 149,415- the British record for any match- who witnessed Scotland defeat England by three goals to one.

A week later, in the final of the Scottish Cup, a crowd  of 146,433- a European record for a club match- observed Celtic beat Aberdeen 2-1, with an estimated 20,000  supporters locked outside. Indeed, the 1960 European Cup final would see a third record attendance to be broken at Hampden. The 127,621 people who witnessed Los Blancos win their fifth European Cup in a row, against Eintracht Frankfurt, would be the highest attendance in a European Cup final. Ten years later, a sublime European Cup semi-final match between Celtic and Leeds United, where Celtic would win 2-1, seen 136,505 people break the record for the highest attendance for a European Cup  semi-final crowd. Four momentous records in total that will never be broken.

Celtic v Leeds United at Hampden in 1970. 

Hampden has been privileged to host six European finals in total. Famously, in the Bayern Munich victory over Saint Etienne in 1976, the French were adamant that the old square goal-posts of Hampden denied them the trophy (they can now be found within the Museum of Etienne’s ground). One particular final which amazed the Glasgow spectators was the 1960 European Cup final between Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt. Gento, Di Stefano and Puskas helped Madrid destroy Frankfurt 7-3; using such flair and skill never seen before. The fortunate record 127,621  crowd witnessed sheer greatness from start to finish. The greatest game in football history. A game that changed football forever- played right on Hampden’s doorstep.

Football stadia was moderising and the old Hampden evolved, like many other stadiums, in an operation which went underway in the 1990’s. Until then League Cup, Scottish Cup and Scotland games were held in different venues. In 1999, an all seated Hampden Park emerged, bagging a category Four Status from UEFA with its impressive world class facilities, including state of the art dressing rooms,  hospitality suites, the Sports Medicine Centre and the Scottish Football Museum. The 2002 UEFA Champions League final was given to Hampden. A revamped look but simply business as usual. Another great European final where Real Madrid would edge Bayer Leverkusen with a moment of sheer world class. Zinedine Zidane’s impossible volley in front of the east stand will be remembered forever. That the World’s greatest player should score one of the game’s greatest goals for the world’s greatest club at the world’s greatest and oldest international football stadium was pure theatre.

Paul McCartney entertaining the crowd at Hampden in 2010.

The 21st century has brought us new heroes and villains but the spectacular matches and moments have kept coming, not just from footballers; but from music stars, boxers, the Scottish Claymores and the fantastic athletes competing at the track events hosted at Hampden during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The Scottish Cup final continues to shine in the sun, the Scottish League Cup final still knows how to entertain those in the Hampden stands. Scotland may not have reached a major campaign during this new century but, despite this, Hampden has still seen such joy, passion and roar from the Scotland faithful.

James McFadden at Hampden.

There are many critics of Hampden. Though a lot of the criticism aimed at the National Stadium is unjustified. But, time and time again, the crowds and viewers are held enthralled, captured by its magic spell. Hampden Park has occupied a well managed, emotional place at the the heart of the Scottish game. To good days and bad days, to great games and big names, to historical cup success and monumental finals, to false hopes and broken promises. Hampden Park, thank you for entertaining us supporters and exceeding our expectations. Here is to you, Hampden, the most historical stadium in world football.

Hampden Park as an Althetics  arena for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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