Before this the clubs relied upon 5-a-side tournaments to get their players into shape. Normally these would be held in the 2-3 weeks coming up to August [the official start of the season]. In Stirlingshire [where I know most], these would be held all over the place and by many different organisations: in Kilsyth & Slamannan; Stirling & Grangemouth; Falkirk & Dunipace; by East Stirlingshire Bicycle Club & Falkirk Football Club; by Airth Brass Band & Redding Colliers; by Lennoxtown Alum Works & Grangemouth Docks.
They all attracted fives from all levels of football [the senior clubs generally entered two teams], from serious teams to a smattering of made up teams who just wanted 'a go'.
So I picked up a folder of football results [in this case 1894/95] and the first 5-a-side I came across was the Stenhousemuir FC of 1894, the Falkirk Herald had only the barest of details, but the Falkirk Mail carried this report -
Only two ties were drawn for the first round, but none were played, as Clackmannan & Dunblane failed to turn up, and the second round was then proceeded with.
Heather Rangers v Albion Rovers - This turned out to be one of the best ties of the day. The Rangers made a pluck stand, but in the second half the Rovers secured a point, and the "Heather" lost, after hard lines, by 1 point to 0.
Dunipace v Gairdoch came next. Gairdoch put out a strong team, Wilson (Stenhousemuir) and Rae (Falkirk) being in the team. Gairdoch opened well, and scored off Smith. Although the "Gairs" had many other chances the score remained unaltered. Gairdoch 1 Dunipace 0.
Stenhousemuir No.1 v Roamers - The Roamers were a scratch lot, and included Stoddart (ES) and Clarkson (Stenhousemuir). The "Warriors" had no difficulty in disposing of this lot, winning by 2 goals 1 point to 0.
East Stirlingshire No.1 v Abercorn - Abercorn had some splendid opportunities in the first half, but they failed to take advantage of them. On the restart Alexander made away up the field and finished with a lovely goal, followed by a point before time from the same player.
Windsor v Stenhousemuir No.2 - The Muir's second lot were Gillespie (Denny), Duff (Alloa), Thomson, McInnes, and Marshall (King's Park). After a drawn game Stenhousemuir got into the third round by 1 goal 1 point to 0.
Carron Rangers, St Mirren and ES No.2 walked over, Clackmannan No.2, Grangemouth and Corithians failing to turn up.
East Stirlingshire No.2 v Gairdoch - E.S. opened well, and Brock put in some splendid work, but failed to score, and the game ended in a draw. Other two drawn games were played, but in the fourth game Smith secured a point, but Brock, with a long shot scored a goal, E.S. winning by 1 goal to 1 point.
Stenhousemuir No.1 v Carron Thistle - Stenhousemuir took matters easily, and won by three goals to 0. Cochrane and Duncan (Gairdoch) played well for the Thistle.
East Stirlingshire No.1 v Albion Rovers - Kennedy was called upon to save from the very start, and the Rovers managed to score 2 goals to their opponents 1.
Stenhousemuir No.2 v St Mirren - St Mirren had this tie easily, winning by 2 goals to 1 point.
St Mirren v Albion Rovers - Albion Rovers opened well. They played better every tie, and made strenouos efforts to get into the final, but after a drawn game of one each the Rovers appeared fagged, St Mirren running out winners in the re-play by 3 goals to 1.
East Stirlingshire No2 v Stenhousemuir No.1 - This tie was very shortly begun when Scott put E.S. on the lead by scoring a goal. Stenhousemuir returned and scored. The referee awarded a goal, but E.S. maintained that it was only a point. After a long dispute it was ultimately decided to re-start the game. Not long after the re-start Brown shot. The referee awarded a point, but E.S. again claimed that it went past the side. The referee stuck to his decision, and E.S. left the field.
St Mirren v Stenhousemuir No.1 - The Saints pressed at the outset, but Reid relieved, and ran the ball well up the field, but his parting shot went over the goal. Another run by Reid resulted in Brown scoring. Scott saved splendidly, and half-time resulted with the "Muir" leading by 1-0. Keeping up the pressure in the second half the home lot had numerous chances, but nothing was gained. The Saints pressed towards the finish but the score remained unaltered. Result - Stenhousemuir No.1 1 goal ; St Mirren 0."
Interestingly both The Falkirk Herald & The Falkirk Mail printed Carron Rangers then Carron Thistle in their articles, I can not be sure which is the correct name.
For all those out there who claim that things are not like they used to be I would just like to quote the following from the Falkirk Mail's Athletic Gossip -
"There have been some complaints regarding the foul language that was heard around the ropes. I heard it on all sides, and as did also some of the committee, who, if they had done the right thing, would have shown the offenders to the outside of the field."
Well what can I say, people swore at the football then, as they do now, people complained then as they do now, get over it!