Part Four - Ferranti join the Scottish League
As described in the last section, Ferranti had made something of a meteoric rise in the public eye in the 1972-1974 period. Their exploits in the Scottish Cup were hardly earth-shattering but cup shocks in the early 1970s were something of a rarity. Like the present day Scottish football had a certain inevitability about it with one half of the Old Firm all but unstoppable.
The Scottish League recognised this fact and came up with a (then) revolutionary plan to make the top division more competitive. The idea was to create an elite ten club league with two further divisions of fourteen. This was to replace the 18 and 19 team First and Second Divisions where the clubs played each other only twice. Of course this meant that the League was on the look-out for a new member given that Third Lanark's demise in 1967 had reduced the membership to 37 clubs.
The Evening News were quick to point this out along with the fact that Ferranti Thistle were the last non-League club left in the 1973-74 Scottish Cup. The input of the Edinburgh based paper was critical in Ferranti's eventual decision to run for election to the Scottish League. The problem for Thistle was that comparatively speaking they had little track record against some of the other clubs looking for a way in.
That said, at this time, unlike the most recent expansions of the Scottish League in 1994 and 2000, there were no clubs who really stood out as likely winners in the ballot. The Highland clubs, with the exception of Elgin City, had made little impression on the Scottish Cup and the transport infrastructure northward was far less reliable than today.
In the month or so preceding the Scottish League AGM, Ferranti duo of John Bain and Bill Mill lobbied the League's existing clubs vigorously along with the other candidates. On the eve of the 24th May AGM, the Evening News confirmed that Ferranti stood a good chance of success. Team manager John Bain was equally as optimistic, speaking in the Evening News, 23rd May 1974 -
"I'm biased of course, but I think we must have an excellent chance. Like all the other clubs applying for the vacant place we've being doing a lot of lobbying and the signs are very favourable.
"Quite a number of clubs have promised us their support. Our own management had little hesitation in giving us the go-ahead to apply and have promised us financial backing.
"The opinion of many who have promised us support seems to be that the Highland League clubs are geographically and economically out of it, that to choose an English club like Gateshead would be constitutionally wrong and that a town like Hawick is too rugby-minded for them to elect Royal Albert."
Even given the geographical reasons the case for a Highland participant in the Scottish League was a compelling one. The area around the Moray Firth, in particular, was booming as the region began to see the benefits of North Sea oil exploration, generally the clubs involved had better facilities than their Southern cousins and they were also better football teams as the Elgin victory over Ferranti in 1973 had proved.
The only problem the Highland lobby had was the fact that no fewer than four clubs had applied - Ross County, Elgin City, Forres Mechanics and Inverness Thistle - for the vacant place (the Highland League only had 14 members at the time) and that any groundswell of support for a Highland admission might be split between all four.
The AGM arrived and along with a number of other items on the agenda, the election of club No.38 proceeded with seven candidates -
Elgin City - Highland League
Inverness Thistle - Highland League
Forres Mechanics - Highland League
Ross County - Highland League
Ferranti Thistle - East of Scotland League
Hawick Royal Albert - East of Scotland League
Gateshead United - Northern League
In the first ballot Ferranti and Inverness Thistle were tied on 13 votes apiece. The original seven were eventually whittled down to two and it was a straight head-to-head between Ferranti and Inverness. The result of this vote was 21-16 in Ferranti's favour.
Highland reaction to the news was scathing - Inverness Thistle player Ian Stephen was quoted in the The Scotsman 25th May 1974: "This is a great pity. We thought we had a far better chance than an outfit like Ferranti. We have a far more professional set-up at Kingsmills Park than many existing Scottish League clubs. It's ridiculous.".
Another unnamed source added: " If Edinburgh is struggling to support two teams how on earth can they manage to maintain three".
Regardless, Edinburgh had a third League team for the first time in nearly 25 years and club took another leap towards the club we know as Livingston FC today.