Sunday, 4 November 2012

William McGregor ( 1846 –1911 ), football pioneer

 
Staute of William McGregor outside Villa Park
 

Grigor McGrigor was a tailor born in Balquhidder in about 1796 . He married  Jean McNicol in Muthill Parish in 1825 and settled down to raise a family in the village of Braco . Eleven children were born to the couple including William in 1846 . The family live in Front Street near the Braco Hotel ( now known as the Frog and Thistle ) . Young William according to legend witnessed his first football match with his three older brothers near to where the Ardoch Roman Camp is situated . He seemed a bright lad being described in the 1861 Census for the village as a “ pupil teacher “. Shortly after this he headed to Perth where he was apprenticed as a draper. Seeking opportunities that were not readily available in the Fair City, young William headed south to Birmingham where he established his own drapers business in the town and rapidly prospered.

McGregor became associated with Aston Villa Football Club and eventually rose to be their Chairman. In 1887 the Scottish Football Association ordered all its member clubs to withdraw from the English FA and cease further participation in the FA Cup. In the same year in England, McGregor, came up with the idea of a “ league “ competition to replace the ongoing diet of friendlies, which was only interrupted by the occasional FA cup tie. His idea was that the clubs would play each other twice in a season, on a home and away basis, with two points being awarded for a win and one for a draw. The team with the highest number of points when all the fixtures had been played would be declared champions. Discussions between the clubs led to 12 clubs from the North and Midlands contesting the first English League season in 1888/89. What is said to spurred McGregor into making this revolutionary move is that a fellow director Joe Tillotson (so legend has it) blew a gasket when Aston Villa’s opponents failed to show up one Saturday afternoon. In rage he threw down the bloater he was frying in his Summer Lane coffee shop and stormed into the drapers next door owned by McGregor declaring that something must be done to ensure fixtures were honoured!

McGregor, a committed teetotaller, did what he could to enforce his views about the dangers of drinking alcohol. Annoyed that many players were regularly missing training preferring to spend time in the local pubs, he decided to rent a room at a coffee house and to compel the players to attend social gatherings and musical events each Monday during the season!
 
 
William McGregor - the Braco man who created league football in England
 

It was McGregor who circulated letters to all the clubs and successfully established the Football League in September 1888. He died in Birmingham in 1911. Such was the importance of McGregor in establishing football in England that in 2009 a 7’6” bronze statue of the Braco lad was unveiled at Villa Park by Lord Mawhinney, chairman of the Football League .
 
 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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