Motherwell FC legend Willie Rankin's historic 1921 medal put up for sale

David Copland with medal given to Willie Rankin in 1921
David Copland with medal given to Willie Rankin in 1921

Fans of Scottish football memorabilia can now buy a ground breaking gold medal won by a Motherwell player way back in 1921.

Inside right Willie Rankin (pictured) received the gong for scoring the very first goal for a Third Lanark select side during a two-month, 22-game tour of Canada and the USA, the first foreign trip backed for a Scottish touring side by the Scottish Football Association.

Tour programme cover, Willie Rankin and his gold medal

Tour programme cover, Willie Rankin and his gold medal

“I think this is a very important medal in Scottish football history,” said historian and collector David Copland (also pictured), who has put it up for sale on eBay.

“It was particularly notable that Willie was given a gold medal for getting the very first goal while any other scorers after that just got a base metal medal as a commemorative item.

“Willie’s medal stands head and shoulders above the bog standard ones.

“Although he was only around five foot seven in height, Willie made up for that by being one of these guys who scored a lot of goals.

“He was really well liked at Motherwell – scoring 56 goals for them between 1917 and 1924 – and went on to also have a good career with Cowdenbeath and Clyde.”

David revealed that Third Lanark had organised the tour 97 years ago and needed permission from the SFA to also include players from other clubs – including ’Well – in their party.

“The tour – which was funded by the Canadian FA – has become almost mythical,” he added. “The Third Lanark side won their first 21 matches and then drew the last one, scoring over 100 goals in the process.”

David (63), who bought the Rankin piece at a public auction a month ago, is hoping to get around £245 for it on eBay.

“I’m retired now and have been collecting for four or five years,” he said.

“I used to play football – at amateur level on the right wing – and I have always been fascinated by it.

“Whoever buys Willie’s medal will get to hold a little piece of history that you could never have won yourself, but is now on the open market.

“It is absolutely fascinating. If it ends up in the hands of someone who can appreciate it then that is the fun part.

“It would also be fantastic if it ended up in a museum.”

David stressed that the medal would likely appeal more to Motherwell FC fans than anyone interested in the now defunct Third Lanark.

They were a professional Scottish football club based in Glasgow.

Founded in 1872 as an offshoot of the 3rd Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers, they were founder members of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) in 1872 and the Scottish Football League (SFL) in 1890.

They played in the top division of the SFL for the majority of their existence, and were league champions in 1903-04.

They also won the Scottish Cup twice, in 1889 and 1905.

Third Lanark went out of business in 1967 as a result of mismanagement, six years after having finished in third place in the SFL. Their former ground, Cathkin Park in Crosshill, is still partially standing and used for minor football.

In 1996, an amateur football club also called “Third Lanark” was founded with intentions of restoring the club name to senior football and returning to play regularly at Cathkin Park.