Brief Guide to Junior Football

Thorniewood United are members of the Scottish Junior Football Association (SJFA).  Since Season 2002/03 the SJFA has been split into Three Regions, North, East and West, Thorniewood playing their football in the West Region.

The West Region of the SJFA is made up of teams from the Central and Ayrshire areas of Scotland.  Teams compete against each other at Region Level and further down, at District Level.

West Region League Set-Up Season 2003/04

West Region Super League – Premier Div 12 Teams
West Region Super League – 1st Div 12 Teams
West Region Central League – 1st Div 12 Teams
West Region Central League – 2nd Div 13 Teams
West Region Ayrshire League 13 Teams

Both Divisions of the Super League are open to teams form both Districts, with the Central League and its Ayrshire counterpart acting as Regional Feeders for the Super League.

The West Region has a proud history in the Junior game.  With a number of Central and Ayrshire clubs having fearsome reputations as Trophy collecting machines, with the Region claiming 90 of the Scottish Cups played since the first in 1886.

As well as the above mentioned Scottish Cup, teams in the Region compete for other Cup Competitions.  Some of the Cups are competed for at District level, with the West of Scotland cup being played at Regional Level.

As in the West, the East Region has been created by the joining of Districts, this time Three (Fife, Tayside and East).  Similar to its cousin in the West, the East Region has a Super League which is supported by several District feeder leagues.  Junior Football in the East is currently the home of many of Scotland’s great Junior sides, with the last two Scottish Junior Cup winners, coming from there.

Regionalisation has not affected it the North in the same degree as the other two Regions, with its membership and structure remaining largely unchanged.

Brief History of Junior Football

There is some doubt about who was the first Junior club to be founded, but what is not in doubt is what year the Junior Grade was born 1878.  Who was established first appears to be a straight fight between Larkhall Thistle and Kirkintilloch Rob Roy. 

As most people are aware, the term “Junior” in relation to our game is nothing to do with Youth Football, it is a term born out of history.  At the turn of the 19th Century the term “Senior” was used to describe the growing Professional game, so it made sense to refer to the next level down as “Junior”.

Football ability was not the determining factor in who was classed Senior and Junior, but it lay in a clubs ambition to join the Scottish League.  Many clubs floated between the Senior and Junior ranks for a number of years, until it the 1920s when the Scottish League began closing its door to such clubs.  

During the 1920s, 30s, 40s and early 50s Junior Football reached a peak, that it will probably never reach again.  Glasgow, Ayrshire and Fife in Particular were areas, where interest in the local team sometimes reached fever pitched.  Crowds of over 50,000 for Scottish Cup Finals were far from uncommon and in fact in 1951 over 77,000 watched Petershill defeat Irvine Meadow
1-0 in the Hampden Final.

As well as Fans, the number of Junior Clubs reached a plateau.  In 1922, a staggering 412 teams entered the National competition, a figure made all the more amazing, due to the fact that over 40 teams from Glasgow did not enter as a protest against the SJFA committee of the time.

Since the 1950s the Junior Game has been in decline in both terms of Fans and Clubs. Much of this can be put down to the change in the Social Structure of Scotland.  With the ever increasing growth of our cities and large towns, much of the community spirit that bonded supporters to their local teams has long since vanished. Many Communities were broken up, with the creation of Housing Schemes in Glasgow and the Destruction of the Mining Industry in other areas in Scotland.  Competition from other Sports and the Senior Teams has also dented Gate Numbers.  With the increase of Disposal income, has come the increase in options available to the working man (and woman).

It is not all doom and gloom on the attendance front, with a number of clubs averaging over 500 for normal league games.  Attendances of over 1,000 (many SFL Div 2 and 3 sides, look on with envy at such attendances) are also not uncommon, but these tend to rely on a Local Derby, which for 90 minutes takes towns/villages back to the time when Local Pride brought in as many fans as winning any trophy could do.

Prior to the 1969 there were a great number of District Leagues.  Thorniewood United played in the Lanarkshire League, picking up Four League Titles.  Larkhall Thistle were the top side during the Leagues existence, lifting the League Seven times.  In 1969 the League was swallowed up by the new Central District.