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Airdrieonians FC, long known to their fans and others as The Diamonds, has a unique place in Scottish football history.


Formed in 1878, a decade earlier than Glasgow Celtic, Airdrieonians made their reputation locally in 1885 by winning a charity football tournament run by the local cricket club. The following year Airdrieonians furthered that reputation nationally by inflicting a 10-2 defeat upon Glasgow Rangers, that club's worst known loss on its own ground.

The 1920s brought an era of resounding success, the culmination of which was victory over Hibernian in the Scottish FA Cup in 1924. From 1922 to 1926, only Rangers and Celtic prevented Airdrieonians from winning the Scottish League.

Thanks to the daring cup runs that were the club's trademark, once in a lifetime occasions became commonplace for Diamond fans. In addition to their 1924 win, Airdrieonians appeared in no fewer than three other Scottish FA Cup Finals, and innumerable other semi-finals both in that tournament and in the Scottish League Cup. Airdrieonians won the Spring Cup in 1976, captained by the legendary Derek Whiteford, and the Bells Challenge Cup in both 2000 and 2001.

The history of the Diamonds is littered with glittering achievements and football landmarks, beginning with the awarding of the game's first-ever penalty kick in 1891, and a 33-year unbroken run in Scotland's top division after winning what was then called the Second League in 1902-03.

Hughie Gallacher, one of the all-time great centre-forwards, sprang to national and international prominence as an Airdrie player. Manchester United poached their manager in October 1921. Stanley Matthews played in the famous shirt in the 1940 War Cup semi-final replay. The first-ever international penalty shoot-out in football took place at Broomfield, as Airdrie dumped English top division leaders Nottingham Forest out of the inaugural British (Texaco) Cup in 1970.

In the same competition a season later, three other English First Division clubs, Manchester City, Huddersfield Town and Derby County, experienced first hand how hard a Diamond can be. Managed by Brian Clough at the height of his powers, Derby scraped through to victory in the final on the narrowest of margins after a 0-0 first-leg draw at Broomfield. Derby became champions of the English Football League a matter of days later, demonstrating just how excellent that Airdrie team was.

All this, and more, from a club where the players could train only for a couple of hours three times a week, at the end of the working day in their real jobs, as teachers, car salesmen, electricians, builders' labourers and dustbinmen.

Having been driven into full liquidation in May 2002, Airdrieonians FC became even more famous for being the first Scottish senior club to go out of business since Third Lanark in 1967. The spirit lived on, though, as the town welcomed Airdrie United into being, and saw it win the Bells Challenge Cup in 2008. Thanks to the efforts of owner and chairman Jim Ballantyne, the name Airdrieonians was restored in time for the start of the 2013-14 season. We're at last back to two lions - and a cockerel - on the shirt.

This history was written by Brian Bollen, author of 'Images of Sport: Airdrieonians FC'. 

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