Tuesday 28 June 2022

Five Once Famous Clubs Now Largely Forgotten

Third Lanark

For many years Third Lanark were arguably Glasgow’s third Club behind the two Old Firm giants of Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers (although Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park may disagree). In fact, after the 1903-04 season they could claim to be the best side in the whole of the country having won the Scottish First Division title. In 1888-89 and again in 1904-05 they won the Scottish Cup and were runners up a further four times the last of those coming in 1935-36. They were also Scottish League Cup runners-up in 1959-60.

By the 1960s, however, Thirds were a struggling Second Division side and their demise was complete in 1967 when the club folded in mountains of debt never to return.

FC Anzhi Makhachkala

In early 2011, Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala were purchased by local billionaire Suleyman Kerimov and the rest of European football soon took note as big money signings quickly followed. These included Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o signed from Inter Milan for approximately €21 million with a then a world-record €20.5 million annual salary.

With all their money and some big name star signings, huge things were expected from the club but they couldn’t quite deliver with a third placed finish under Dutch manager Gus Hiddink in 2012-13 the best they could muster before Kerimov decided to cut back his investment by two thirds before selling the club in 2016 two years after they had been relegated.

Under new ownership, the club were already back in the top flight but were struggling financially and by now largely forgotten outside their homeland were languishing at the wrong end of the table with their superstar names of just a few years previous all long gone. Finally, after failing to meet the minimum requirement for a licence to play in the country’s top two divisions the club folded with barely a whimper just a few weeks ago playing their final match just a couple of days after another local side FC Dynamo Makhachkala secured promotion to the second tier.

Skonto Riga

Club football in Latvia is largely ignored in its own country never mind outside of it, and having seen a league game in Riga myself I can certainly vouch for this. But Skonto Riga were once famous throughout Europe as the side that won a record 13 top flight league titles in a row. After the Soviet Union fell and Latvia regained independence Skonto dominated Latvia’s top table right from the off winning the country’s new Virslīga every single season from its very first in 1992 right up until 2004. 

13 is considered an unlucky number for some and this was the case for Skonto who only managed a second placed finish in 2005. One more title would follow in 2010 but by the end of 2016, the team were dead. Financial difficulties saw the club fail to be granted a top flight licence for the 2016 season and so were forced to play second tier football. The club’s financial issues only worsened, however, and at the end of that season, they went bankrupt and out of existence. 

Belfast Celtic

Formed in 1891, Belfast Celtic were one of the most successful clubs in the Irish Football League winning 14 championships before they withdrew from the league in 1949 making them some 70 years later still Northern Ireland’s third most successful club of all-time. 

As a Catholic side playing in the then largely protestant controlled Northern Ireland the club felt at times that they and their fans were persecuted and things came to a head during their traditional Boxing Day clash with protestant rivals Linfield in 1948 when a late equaliser for home side Linfield saw visiting players and supporters attacked with little protection from the police. In the aftermath, the response from the league was also inadequate or so Celtic would claim. 

The events of that Boxing Day match were seemingly the final straw for the club who had suffered much in the past and it was a catalyst that saw the club withdraw from the league at the end of the season. 

Aside from a few friendlies and tours in the short term the club never played again although in recent times an unrelated amateur club has played under the Belfast Celtic name.

New York Cosmos

When soccer took off in 1970s North America, the New York Cosmos and the Brazillian superstar Pelé who had been enticed to the club were the hottest ticket in town whilst quickly becoming famous in not just the Big Apple but seemingly across all of America and far beyond. Surprisingly despite all the fanfare and the star studded line ups, after their first title in 1972 the Cosmos would win just four more titles before the league folded after the 1984 season.

America’s new obsession with soccer was seemingly short lived and after the league folded in ‘84 there was little in the way of professional soccer in North America until Major League Soccer came about in 1996. The founding of MLS saw professional soccer return to New York and the league now hosts two sides from the city. However, it was not until 2010 that the Cosmos name was revived and the current New York Cosmos are not one of the city’s MLS franchises with the team currently playing in the third tier of American soccer.  

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