Falkirk Football Club are a Scottish professional association football club based in the town of Falkirk. The club was founded in 1876[4] and competes in the Scottish Championship as a member of the Scottish Professional Football League. The club was elected to the Second Division of the Scottish Football League in 1902–03, was promoted to the First Division after two seasons and achieved its highest league position in the early 1900s when it was runner-up to Celtic in 1907–08 and 1909–10. The football club was registered as a Limited Liability Company in April 1905 – Falkirk Football & Athletic Club Ltd.

Falkirk won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1913. After 1945, Falkirk were promoted and demoted between the Premier and First Divisions seven times until 1995–96, and during the 1970s spent three seasons in the Second Division. In 2005, Falkirk were promoted to the Scottish Premier League (SPL). Falkirk won the Scottish Cup again in 1957 and were runners-up in the competition in 1997, 2009 and 2015. As a result of its performance in the 2009 Scottish Cup, the club qualified for the inaugural season of the UEFA Europa League in 2009–10. Falkirk have won the second tier of Scottish football a record seven times, an honour shared with St Johnstone. They have also won the Scottish Challenge Cup more than any other club, winning it for the fourth time in 2012.

In their early years, Falkirk played at three venues: Hope Street, Randyford Park and Blinkbonny Park. Between 1885 and 2003, the club was based at Brockville Park, built on the former Hope Street ground. After the creation of the SPL in 1998, its strict stadium criteria – to which Brockville Park did not conform – was enforced, and the club was denied promotion on three occasions. The club's present home ground since 2003 is the Falkirk Stadium, an 7,937 all-seater stadium on the outskirts of Falkirk.[8]

History

Club formation and early years

The club's date of formation is uncertain.[5] Although some accounts point to the year 1876, others claim it was formed in 1877.[59] However, the former is the date used by the club and its fans.[7] In 1878, the club joined the Scottish Football Association, and became eligible to compete in the Scottish Cup, a knockout tournament which became the country's main association football cup competition. The club reached the second round in the first year that it competed.[8] In the first few years after it was formed, Falkirk played mostly friendly games. They played their home matches at three different grounds during this period; Hope Street, Randyford Park and Blinkbonny Park. It left the latter in 1884 and moved to Brockville Park, which remained the club's home ground for 118 years. The Stirlingshire Football Association was founded in 1883, which invited clubs from the Stirlingshire region to join. It resulted in the establishment of a new tournament, the Stirlingshire Cup, a competition open exclusively to the teams from the region, which Falkirk won in its inaugural season.[3][10] The club's nickname is "The Bairns",[61] a Scots word meaning sons or daughters, which is given to natives of the town of Falkirk.[12] This is reflected in the Falkirk Burgh motto: "Better meddle wi' the de'il than the Bairns o' Fa'kirk".[13]

Election to the Football League

After playing mostly regional matches, friendly games and the nationwide Scottish Cup tournament for the majority of its existence, the club was elected to the bottom tier of the Scottish Football League in 1902–03, a national sports league consisting of Scotland's top football clubs. At the time, the league consisted of two tiers, the First and Second Divisions. Falkirk was promoted to the top division with a second-place finish behind Clyde after two seasons. Despite the club's success, several months beforehand a proposal to merge with local rivals East Stirlingshire was raised, which was narrowly rejected in a vote.[17] In 1907–08, Falkirk's third season in the top flight, the club finished the season in second place, its highest league position to date, and repeated this in the 1909–10 season.[17] On both occasions it finished behind champions Celtic despite being the top goal scorers in the league, becoming the first Scottish club to break the 100 goals barrier in a single season.[17] In 1913, the club won the Scottish Cup for the first time, defeating Raith Rovers in the final 2–0.

Nine years later, the club broke the world record transfer fee, paying £5000 for the transfer of striker Syd Puddefoot from English club West Ham United.[15][16] Falkirk spent 30 consecutive seasons in their first spell in the top flight of Scottish football, before being relegated in 1934–35 after finishing 20th at the bottom of the league.[63] Despite this, the club was promoted to the top flight after one season, as champions of the 1935–36 Second Division, amassing a club record of 132 league goals in the process. Falkirk remained in the top flight until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, when the league was suspended.

Post-war promotion and demotion

After the war ended in 1945, the Scottish Football League resumed and Falkirk regained its place in the First Division for the 1946–47 season. In 1947, a new competition, the Scottish League Cup, was inaugurated. In the 1947–48 season, Falkirk reached the final, and lost 4–1 to East Fife in the replayed final after an initial 0–0 draw.

The club competed in the final of the Scottish Cup in 1957. They defeated Kilmarnock in a replay. This was their first success in the tournament since winning it 44 years earlier. In June 1958 Alex Parker and Eddie O'Hara from the cup winning side were bought by Everton for a combined fee or £18,000.[64] John White was signed two months later from Alloa Athletic with £3,300 of that money.[65]

In the years to follow, relegation and promotion between the first and second tiers occurred seven times until the 1995–96 season. The club spent eight consecutive seasons at a time in either division. As a result, Falkirk has won or finished runners-up in the second tier of Scottish football a record 14 times, the majority occurring in this period. The club also spent three seasons in the late 1970s in the newly created third tier, the lowest tier it has competed in. In 1977–78 the club finished in its lowest ranking to date, ending the season in the equivalent of 29th in Scotland following a 5th-place finish in the new Second Division.[18] In the 1996–97 season, the club reached the final of the Scottish Cup for the third time, and Falkirk became the seventh club in 106 years to reach the final whilst competing outside the top league of Scottish football. Falkirk's opponents were Kilmarnock, a repeat of the 1957 final,[13] but the club could not match its 1957 success and lost 1–0.[20]

Scottish Premier League

The Scottish Premier League (SPL) was founded in 1998 as the new top flight of Scottish football. The new league and its rules denied Falkirk the chance to be promoted into it on three occasions as a consequence of its formation. When the SPL was created from the old Premier Division, a play-off match that was held between the team ranked ninth in the Premier Division and the team ranked second in the First Division was abolished during the 1997–98 season. Falkirk, ranked second in the First Division, was thus denied a play-off with Motherwell. The SPL's criterion that clubs required a 10,000 capacity all-seater stadium in order to compete in the new league, which Falkirk's Brockville Park did not comply with, was introduced. When the SPL was due to expand to 12 teams at the end of the 1999–2000 season, Aberdeen, which finished bottom of the SPL, would have competed in a three-way play-off against the teams that finished second and third in the First Division, and two of these three clubs would gain SPL status for the next season. Brockville Park was still below the SPL criterion, and Falkirk applied to ground-share Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, but the proposal was rejected. The play-off was abandoned, Dunfermline Athletic was automatically promoted and Aberdeen retained its status in the top flight.

Following four successive top three finishes in the First Division since 1997–98, the club's fortunes changed dramatically and it finished the season in ninth position, which would have qualified the club to be relegated to the third tier. However, it was spared relegation by the liquidation of fellow First Division club Airdrieonians on the last day of the season.[21] The following season, Falkirk was again denied promotion to the SPL despite finishing top of the First Division. The club submitted another application to ground-share, this time at New Broomfield – an SPL compliant stadium and the home of Airdrie United – but was rejected in a vote by SPL chairmen. Motherwell was thus spared relegation from the First Division.[22] In order to meet the criterion, Falkirk started building a new stadium and left Brockville Park.

During the 2004–05 season, the SPL stadium criterion was reduced to 6,000, which the club's new Falkirk Stadium met. The club won the First Division that season, winning 1–0 to Ross County, and was promoted to the SPL. After three seasons in the SPL, including two seventh-place finishes, the club qualified for the inaugural season of the UEFA Europa League, the first time the club qualified for a European competition. The same year, Falkirk was beaten by Rangers in the final of the Scottish Cup.[23] Despite its cup success, Falkirk finished in 10th place in the league and avoided relegation with a 1–0 win against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The following season, the club competed in the Europa League but was relegated from the SPL to the First Division after being held to a 0–0 draw against Kilmarnock on the final day of the 2009–10 season.[23]

Scottish First Division/Scottish Championship

Following its return to the First Division, Falkirk finished the 2010–11 and 2011–12 seasons in third position. As members of the Scottish Football League, the club was eligible to compete in the Scottish Challenge Cup, which it won 1–0 against Hamilton Academical 2012 final for a record fourth time. In the same year Falkirk reached the semi-finals of the League Cup, but lost to Celtic. In the quarter-finals, the club defeated the reigning champions and SPL club Rangers 3–2,[14] then another top flight club Dundee United on penalties in the next round.[14] The following season, Falkirk had another great run in the Scottish Cup, beating local rivals Stenhousemuir as well as Hamilton Academical en route to their semi-final against Hibernian at Hampden Park. Falkirk, under the management of Gary Holt for the first time, took a 3–0 half time lead, though Hibernian made a comeback to confirm their place in the final with a 4–3 win (AET). The following season, Falkirk went one better by reaching the final, avenging their loss to Hibernian in the semi-finals before being defeated by Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2–1 in the final.

Colours and badge

The first instance of the navy blue and white strip from 1882

Falkirk's traditional colours are navy blue and white, which the team first wore during the 1882 season. However, the club's first strip, thin blue and white horizontal hoops on the jersey and socks, was worn between 1876 and 1880. This was replaced with a blue jersey and white shorts, which has featured predominantly since. Touches of red were introduced to the strip in the late 1930s – mostly on the socks – was worn until the early 1960s, re-introduced in the mid-1970s and has since been featured in the team's kit. For the 2017–18 season the kit consists of a navy blue jersey, white shorts and navy socks.[26][66]

Falkirk's current crest is a stylised version of the Falkirk Steeple, a dominant landmark of the town. During the 2007–08 season the club used a crest – known as "The Highlander" – that was worn during the club's 1957 Scottish Cup win as a 50th anniversary tribute to the players. Kit manufacturer Umbro supplied the club's kit for the 1977–78 season. Other kits have been supplied by Bukta, Patrick and Le Coq Sportif. As of August 2017, the current supplier since 2008 is Puma[26] and the club's shirt sponsor is Central Demolition. Recent sponsors include Budweiser Budvar, John R Weir Mercedes Group and Beazer Homes.

Stadiums

In the club's early years, Falkirk played its home games at three different sites: Hope Street, Randyford Park and Blinkbonny Park. The first pitch used by the club was on Hope Street, the location that would become Brockville Park in 1884. The first match at Hope Street was against Grasshoppers from Bonnybridge.[28] After one season, Falkirk moved to Randyford Park, the home of East Stirlingshire Cricket Club during the summer months, in 1878 was where the club played its first competitive match, which it won against Campsie Glen of Lennoxtown in the Scottish Cup.[29] The ground was located near Forth Valley College, several hundred yards west of the present Falkirk Stadium. The club played at Blinkbonny Park between 1881 and 1883.[67]

Between 1885 and 2003, Falkirk was based at Brockville Park, which was located a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) from the town centre of Falkirk.[4] Brockville Park was largely terraced and had a capacity of between 7,500 and 8,000 spectators in its later years. On 21 February 1953, Falkirk's largest home attendance was recorded at the ground when 23,100 spectators watched the club play against Celtic in the third round of the Scottish Cup.[66][31]

Image
An old turnstile from Brockville

When the SPL was created in 1998, Brockville Park fell short of the SPL's stadium criteria, mainly because of the terraced stands. As a result, the club was denied entry to the league, despite winning the First Division or qualifying for a promotion play-off, on three occasions. Falkirk remained at the stadium until the last day of the 2002–03 football season, and in late 2003 Brockville was demolished and the site sold to supermarket chain Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc.[4] To commemorate the club's time at the stadium, the supermarket displays Falkirk F.C. memorabilia, including a turnstile.[68] For the 2003–04 season, Falkirk entered an agreement with Stenhousemuir to ground-share Ochilview Park stadium for one season while the club's new stadium was under construction.

Since the beginning of the 2004–05 season, the club has been based at Falkirk Stadium, an 8,750 capacity all-seater stadium built on the eastern outskirts of Falkirk.[66] The stadium was opened in July 2004 with a friendly match against Dundee.[66][69] When it opened, only the 4,200 capacity west stand was completed. The 2,000 capacity north stand was constructed during the opening season and was completed in May 2005, taking the stadium above the SPL's reduced 6,000 seating criterion.[69] Falkirk became champions of the First Division that season and was promoted to the SPL. The stadium has since been further expanded; the south stand[35] officially opened in a match against Royal Antwerp of Belgium in August 2009.[36]

Supporters and rivalries

Falkirk FC's strongest recent rivalry is with Dunfermline Athletic. The towns of Dunfermline and Falkirk are roughly 13 miles apart, separated by the River Forth. Both clubs are a similar size and have regularly competed at the same level in the SPL and First Division but the origin of the rivalry is unclear, as former Falkirk manager John Hughes said in an interview in 2005.[38] The two clubs have played important promotion and relegation encounters against each other over the past thirty years which has only increased the animosity between the two sets of fans.[39]

The club's traditional rival was East Stirlingshire, a club that was also based in Falkirk. The two teams regularly competed against each other in their early existences in the Stirlingshire Cup, as well as in league football following Falkirk's election to the Scottish Football League in 1902–03, two seasons after East Stirlingshire. As of September 2012, the last time the clubs played each other in a competitive league fixture was in April 1982, which East Stirlingshire won 3–0, when both clubs were in the First Division.[40] Following East Stirlingshire's relegation that season, the two clubs have not competed in the same league; Falkirk predominantly in the First Division and East Stirlingshire in the Third Division. In 1999–00 the clubs were drawn against each other in the second round of the Scottish League Cup, which Falkirk won 2–0 after extra time was played, the last competitive fixture between the clubs excluding the Stirlingshire Cup.[40]

Coaching staff

Position[41]Name
Head CoachPaul Hartley
Assistant ManagerJimmy Nicholl
Goalkeeping CoachDerek Jackson
Fitness CoachTam Ritchie
PhysiotherapistRoss Grady
Academy DirectorMichael McArdle
Development CoachLee Miller
Technical DirectorAlex Smith

Current squad

As of 24 November 2017[6]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No.PositionPlayer
1GKRobbie Thomson
2
Image
The Falkirk Stadium has been Falkirk's home since 2004.
DFLewis Kidd
3DFJordan McGhee
4DFAaron Muirhead
5DFPeter Grant
6MFJoe McKee
7MFTom Taiwo
8MFMark Kerr (captain)
9FWNathan Austin
10MFCraig Sibbald
11MFMyles Hippolyte
12GKDavid Mitchell
14FWLouis Longridge (on loan from Hamilton Academical)
16DFReghan Tumilty (on loan from Ross County)
17MFAlex Harris
18FWLee Miller
20FWKevin O'Hara
21DFConrad Balatoni
23DFTony Gallacher
No.PositionPlayer
24MFCameron Blues
25DFMark Finlayson
26MFReis Peggie
27DFJonny Mitchell
28MFJames Craigen
29FWMark Stowe
30MFConor Langton
31GKRobbie Mutch
32DFMarky Munro
33FWRory Loy
34DFKyle Mitchell
35MFCieran Dunne
36MFJason Jarvis
38FWHarry Girdwood
39FWConnor McBride
40FWKieran Sweeney
41MFAidan Laverty
44DFPaul Watson

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No.PositionPlayer
15DFLuca Gasparotto (on loan at Greenock Morton)
19FWScott Shepherd (on loan at Edinburgh City)
No.PositionPlayer
22DFLiam Henderson (on loan at Edinburgh City)

Notable players

Managers

The club's first manager was Willie Nicol, who was appointed in 1905, before which all manager appointments were assigned to the club secretary. Nicol was first appointed club secretary in 1900, then secretary/manager and finally manager. As of August 2017, Nicol is the longest serving manager in Falkirk's history. Falkirk are currently without a manager following the departure of Peter Houston.

NameNationalityFromToMatchesWonDrawnLostWin%Honours
Nicol, WillieWillie Nicol ScotlandJuly 1905February 1924732285187260038.931 Scottish Cup, 2 Division One runners-up, 1 Division Two runners-up
Craig, TullyTully Craig ScotlandApril 1935May 1950577262112203045.411 Division Two championship, 1 Scottish League Cup runners-up
Smith, RegReg Smith EnglandJanuary 1957May 1959104382343036.541 Scottish Cup
Cunningham, WillieWillie Cunningham Northern IrelandOctober 1968April 1973207804780038.651 Division Two championship
Prentice, JohnJohn Prentice ScotlandAugust 1973August 197595401837042.111 Division Two championship
Hagart, JohnJohn Hagart ScotlandAugust 1979November 1982152514061033.551 Second Division championship
Jefferies, JimJim Jefferies ScotlandAugust 1990August 1995237986178041.352 First Division championships, 1 Scottish Challenge Cup
Totten, AlexAlex Totten ScotlandDecember 1996April 20022401145373047.501 Scottish Cup runners-up, 1 Scottish Challenge Cup, 2 First Division runners-up
Hughes, JohnJohn Hughes ScotlandMay 2003June 200926310557101039.921 First Division championship, 1 Scottish Challenge Cup, 1 Scottish Cup runners-up
Pressley, StevenSteven Pressley ScotlandFebruary 2010March 2013105442833041.901 Scottish Challenge Cup
Holt, GaryGary Holt ScotlandApril 2013June 201452251116048.08
Houston, PeterPeter Houston ScotlandJune 2014September 2017152714140046.711 Scottish Cup runners-up
Hartley, PaulPaul Hartley ScotlandOctober 20170000!

 Win% is rounded to two decimal places.

Honours

League

Cups

Club records

European record

Since the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) was formed in 1960, Falkirk has qualified for a UEFA club competition on one occasion.[48] In 2009, Falkirk reached the final of the Scottish Cup, which it lost to Rangers. The winner of the Scottish Cup would normally qualify for the UEFA Europa League, but because Rangers had already qualified for the UEFA Champions League through their league ranking in the SPL, the place was passed to Falkirk as runners-up. Falkirk was eliminated in the second qualifying round by FC Vaduz of Liechtenstein in a two-legged tie.[49] The club's only European goal was scored by Ryan Flynn in the 1–0 first leg home victory against FC Vaduz.

SeasonCompetitionRoundOpponentHomeAwayAggregate
2009–10UEFA Europa LeagueSecond qualifying round FC Vaduz1–00–21–2 (a.e.t.)

See also