Scotch Professors

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The Scotch Professors were Scottish football players of the late 19th century who moved south to play for clubs participating in the English Football League during the period when football had become professional in England but remained (theoretically) amateur in Scotland.


The origin of the name was based upon the distinctive Scottish style of play – described at the time as being “combination football[1] – which was centred upon a passing game with greater teamwork as opposed to the individualistic, dribbling style common in England at the time. It was this distinctive style of football – which has been described as "changing the nature of soccer" – which had become the hallmark of the Scottish game of the era.[2][3] The ability of the Scottish players, their apparently superior technique,[4] and the nature of their play impressed English spectators during the ScotlandEngland international fixtures which had been taking place since 1872 and led to a great number of Scots players moving south to play professionally for English clubs once this became legal in 1885.

This trend was, along with professionalism generally, bitterly opposed by much of the Scottish footballing establishment and media. The latter saw the Professors described as “Traitorous wretches” and “base mercenaries” in the press with the Scottish Football Association blacklisting players known to have played professionally.[5] However professionalism was eventually established in Scottish football in 1893 although Scotland’s most powerful club and founders of both the passing and international game, Queen's Park, initially refused to participate in the new professional league (not joining until 1900) and remained committed to the amateur principles even after entering into competition with professional clubs.[3][6] They remain an amateur club to this day.

The impact made upon English football by these Scots players was immediate and wide-ranging. For instance, the famous Corinthians football club of London were founded purely to emulate the Scottish game and to allow the English national team to challenge Scottish dominance which had seen the Scots defeat the English by scores of 7–2, 6–1 and 5–1 between the years 1878–1882.[7] The first English team to win the Championship and Cup "double", Preston North End, did so with a majority of their team being made up of Scottish players as did the Sunderland side which won 3 English Championships between 1892 and 1895 while the first Liverpool team to take to the field in 1892 was made up entirely of Scots.[7]

The “Scotch Professors” were known also for spreading the game – both football generally and “combination” team passing style of play for which they were known – internationally with prominent Scots players of the time playing major roles in the introduction of football across the British Empire, Europe, South America (particularly Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil) and to China .[5][7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Murray, Bill; Murray, William J. (1998). The World's Game. University of Illinois Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-252-06718-5.
  3. ^ a b Springer, Will (9 June 2006). "Scotland's amazing role in football's success". The Scotsman. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  4. ^ Mason, Tony. "The makers of association football". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ "The Professional Game". Scottish Football Association. Archived from the original on 9 March 2009. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
  7. ^ a b c Aitken, Mike (22 March 2008). "Scots passing pioneers shaped football". The Scotsman. Retrieved 9 February 2009.
  8. ^