Robert Gardner

There are many reasons to praise this man. Let me name some. He was Scotland’s first team captain, in the 1872 International. He was a goalkeeper, who also played outfield in that game, when Robert Smith took over. He moved to Clydesdale in 1874 and was their captain in the 1874 Scottish Cup Final against his old pals at Queen’s Park. He was primarily responsible for arranging the world’s first international, in 1872. He refereed the first game Wales ever played: against Scotland, in 1876.

That’s the good bit. Now for the great bit. In the late 1860s, when football was sorting itself out, Gardner was one of the men who did the sorting. He was captain of Queen’s Park. Don’t think of what a current captain does. Gardner was the man who ran the show. The captain was the main man, until Queen’s Park started a committee to run the team, in 1880.

In this position, he took it upon himself to write out a card, indicating ‘each man’s position on the field’. That’s our friend Robinson telling us this, when he spoke to the old men who were left from the 1870s. The first time these cards were distributed, was for the game away to Hamilton Gymnasium 29
th May, 1869.

Here we have proof that Scotland were the first Nation to realise that planning a game and carrying out particular tactics was the way to success. When England got really really tired of being gubbed, again and again by Scotland, their complaint was that the Scotch Professors knew one another’s play. They said this, as if it was some amazing secret, that only the Scots knew.

I am sure Robert Gardner would not have been the only Scot, who picked a team, based on where it was best for the men to play. He is the first one we know. He is a product of that Enlightenment that the Scots had created, where thought always came before deed. For that, he is one of the most influential footballers, of all time.

Robert Gardner

Giving History a Sporting Chance