Spring Cup 1976
With the advent of League reconstruction in season 1975/76, the Scottish League introduced a competition for the clubs of the new First and Second Divisions called the Spring Cup. The new League set-up had caused a reduction in the number of lower division fixtures to 26, and the new competition was intended to make up the shortfall and continue to provide much needed pools money for the competing clubs.

The new competition was immediately unpopular. It was branded as "meaningless" and "ill-timed" and claims were made that it would impose an additional financial burden on all but the most successful clubs. Managers made no secret of the fact that they would treat the games merely as preparation for the new season and, even before the first ball was kicked, calls were being made to provide an alternative.

The competition was run along similar lines to the Scottish League Cup format of the time. Seven sections of four clubs faced each other on a home and away basis on successive Saturdays. Originally it had been intended that only the winners of each section, together with the best second placed team, would continue on to a knock out phase. However, a few days before the competition began on March 6th, it was revamped to allow sixteen qualifiers, comprising the top two teams from each section and the two best third placed teams. The remaining twelve non-qualifiers would receive 400 compensation.

Section 1 consisted of Airdrie, East Fife, Brechin and Stranraer. As expected, the two First Division sides, Airdrie and East Fife, qualified although Brechin did really well, managing home draws against both qualifiers.

In Section 2, the big surprise was the failure of First Division runners-up Kilmarnock to qualify. Indeed, it required 280 minutes of play before they scored a goal. First Division Falkirk headed the table, followed by their lower division neighbours Alloa. Berwick Rangers completed the foursome.

The highest scoring section was Section 3, First Division sides St.Mirren and Partick Thistle overcoming Meadowbank Thistle and Forfar. The upset of the section was undoubtedly Meadowbank's 2-1 win over First Division champions Partick.

Not surprisingly, Scottish Cup semi finalists Dumbarton won Section 4, while Albion Rovers and Arbroath tied for second place. Arbroath's superior goal difference gave them the edge, but Rovers also qualified as one of the best third places. Stenhousemuir brought up the rear.

Section 5 was only decided on the last day. Amateurs Queen's Park pipped Dunfermline on goal difference and third placed Hamilton Accies secured the remaining third place qualifying spot. Cowdenbeath were fourth.
Section 6 was dominated by the two promoted teams from the Second Division, Raith Rovers and Clydebank, while Clyde and Queen of the South failed to shine.

Similarly in Section 7, it was Morton and Montrose who got the better of their Second Division opponents East Stirlingshire and Stirling Albion. Morton won the section, having conceded fewer goals.

By the end of the sectional ties on April 10th, the worst fears of the participants had been realised. The competition had not been the crowd-puller the League had hoped for, with many attendances struggling to reach four figures. There were renewed calls for something better. On April 17th, Morton tabled a proposal for a 12-club Premier Division, which was rejected. It would be another 10 years before a similar proposal would win the necessary support and approval.

The second round was played on a home and away basis on April 14th and 17th. East Fife overturned Partick Thistle's first leg home win, as did Falkirk over Arbroath and Airdrie over Dunfermline. Clydebank and St.Mirren made sure of quarter final places in their first leg ties against Albion Rovers and Alloa respectively. Dumbarton and Morton eventually disposed of Raith Rovers and Queen's Park after drawn games. The tie of the round was surely the return leg between Hamilton Accies and Montrose. The Links Park men led 3-1 from the first leg and were 2-1 up by half time in the return at Hamilton. Accies then brought on substitute Alan Hughes, who reduced the deficit with his first touch of the ball and carried on to complete a hat-trick. Further goals from Thomas and McDougall and a penalty from Montrose's Barr made the final score 6-3, the highest in the competition, and 7-6 in Hamilton's favour.

The quarter finals on April 21st and 24th paired two sets of local rivals. Hamilton couldn't repeat their scoring spree of the previous round and were trounced 4-0 and 5-0 by Airdrie. Morton defeated cup favourites St.Mirren 1-0 home and away to reach the semi finals. Dumbarton proved too strong for Falkirk, winning 4-2 at Boghead and 2-1 at Brockville. The remaining tie between East Fife and Clydebank was the closest of the four. A Davie Cooper penalty gave the Bankies a slender first leg lead. East Fife's O'Connor levelled after 25 minutes of the return leg at Methil. With no further scoring in the 90 minutes, and the subsequent extra time, the tie went to penalties. Clydebank took the honours 4-2 in one of the first shoot-outs of modern times.

The day after the quarter finals, a meeting of the First and Second Division clubs at Stirling voted to change the set-up for future seasons. It was decided to scrap the Spring Cup altogether and to adopt Albion Rovers' proposal for the teams in the two divisions to meet each other three times a season. Even though this meant that there would be inequalities in the League programme - one team may have to play a stronger opponent once at home and twice away - the fact that the proposal was adopted showed the depth of feeling amongst the clubs about the present set-up.

The Spring Cup semi finals were held on April 28th. In front of 4000 spectators at Love Street, Paisley, Airdrie easily disposed of Morton 3-1 with a little help from two own goals. A crowd of 6000 at Firhill saw Clydebank defeat Dumbarton by the same scoreline, all of the goals coming in the second half.

The final between Airdrie and Clydebank at Firhill on May 3rd was watched by a crowd of 8000. Clydebank took the lead through Larnach after only 2 minutes and on the hour mark, Davie Cooper had an excellent chance to put the tie out of reach, but he failed with his spot kick. McCulloch equalised for Airdrie 15 minutes later and the tie went into extra time. Larnach scored again to put Clydebank in front but goals from McVeigh, McCulloch and Walker gave Airdrie the cup with a 4-2 scoreline.

Clydebank Team: McKenzie,Hall,Abel,Fallon,Fanning,Hay,Cooper,McColl,Larnach,McCallan,Lumsden. Subs:Provan and Browning


Action from the Final played at Firhill
Many Thanks To Derek Drennan For This Spring Cup Article
www.derek-drennan.co.uk