1880/81 would be the most significant season to date for St Mirren, with the club taking part in the Renfrewshire and Scottish Cups for the very first time. This inclusion in the national tournament was testament to the growing reputation of both the club and town within the football circles in Scotland. Indeed, one derby between Saints and Abercorn attracted a crowd of 4,000 spectators in 1880, an incredible turnout for an amateur sport only recognised for three years within the town.
The long pre-season to coincide with the Cricket fixtures playing over the summer, was interrupted by Saints holding a ‘Sports Event’ at Thistle Park on the final day of the month in front of a large crowd, who watched a 4 a-side football/rugby tournament between multiple clubs from Renfrewshire, Glasgow and Ayrshire. This was followed by a number of “foot races” all won by John Goold, to keep the spectators entertained until darkness stopped events.
The resumption of the 4 a-side football/rugby tournament from Saturday 31st July took place on the evening of the 4th August at Thistle Park, with a large attendance once more filling the ground. The main attraction was the St Mirren v Abercorn match, with Saints victorious but lack of sunlight once more brought proceedings to an early halt and rescheduled again for the 9th August, where Saints reached the final only to be beaten by Caledonia of Glasgow in the final.
On the 23rd August, history was made when Saints were formally admitted as a member club of the SFA and entered into the hat for the First Round of the Scottish Cup for the very first time, where the regional draw matched the club with Johnstone Athletic. As Saints were first out, they had the choice of playing home or away, and unsurprisingly chose Paisley as the venue.
Saints played their first ever Scottish Cup tie on the 4th at Thistle Park, beating Johnstone Athletic 3-0 to progress to round 2. On the 11th September, the Renfrewshire FA announced Saints had been paired with Neilston’s Glenkilloch in the Renfrewshire Cup 1st round. On the same day the club published their agreed fixtures for the season, which did not include any scheduled matches with Abercorn. It was later revealed that the Abbies had not responded to any of Saints requests for a fixture, with Saints accusing them of snobbery!
On the 21st of the month, Saints were drawn with Lochwinnoch side the 17th Renfrewshire Rifle Volunteers in the Scottish Cup, where the Paisley side once more opted for a home tie due to be played on the 2nd of the following month.
A great month for the club as they progressed to the 3rd round of the Scottish Cup after beating 17th RRV and were then drawn away at rivals Abercorn to the delight of football supporters in the town. A rampant Saints would win this Paisley Derby 4-1 in front of 4,000 fans, the largest crowd recorded in the town to date. In the Renfrewshire Cup, Saints also progressed to the next round after beating Glenkilloch 5-1, with Half Back and captain John Paterson grabbing a hat-trick.
The 4th round of the Scottish Cup had matched Saints with Glasgow side Cowlairs in Paisley, with the home side progressing once more, this time to the Quarter Finals after narrowly defeating the Springburn based side 1-0 on the 13th November at Thistle Park. Three days later, Saints were handed a tough tie for the historic last 8 match, with Victorian big guns and one of the leading clubs in Scotland, Dumbarton, heading to Paisley the following month.
On the first day of the month, the club presented an inscribed oak writing desk on the event of the marriage of prominent committee member Mr A McKechnie, which took place the day before that Quarter Final tie in the Scottish Cup against Dumbarton at Thistle Park. The following afternoon, despite almost universal acceptance that it was an even match in the written press, the Sons ran out convincing 5-1 winners. However, Saints complained to the SFA about the referee performance, alleging pro Dumbarton bias, prompting a swift hearing on the 15th December at the SFA HQ in Dundas Street, Glasgow.
The SFA were unsympathetic however, with Vice President Hamilton throwing the case out and ruling that Saints should lose their 10s deposit due to the “frivolous” nature of the complaint, a figure worth about £70 today.
On the 28th December, Saints were drawn against Barrhead in the 3rd round of the Renfrewshire Cup after being given a bye through the second round.
The winter break and poor weather meant the team had little action, although over 1,000 turned out at Thistle Park for the only match played that month, a 5-0 trouncing of Alexandra Athletic.
Saints Renfrewshire Cup Quarter final tie with Barrhead takes centre stage, as the sides can’t be separated when they draw three times. There are further calls from the press for Saints and Abercorn to play a match to raise funds for an annual cup to be played for by the clubs of the town.
The harsh weather experienced in January continued, leaving the outstanding Quarter Final with Barrhead unsettled until the 26th March, when Saints were defeated 3-2 at Parkhouse in Barrhead, the Buddies first match in 5 weeks, however the home side were later disqualified and Saints reinstated, with Shawfield waiting as semi-final opponents. On the 19th of the month, the 3rd Annual St Mirren Festival was held in the Abercorn rooms within the town, with membership of the club now confirmed at just over 200.
At the AGM on the 7th, the good financial health of the club was announced by the treasurer, who will be replaced by Mr A McKechnie for the forthcoming season. The full list of appointments was as follows:
Honorary President: Col. Sir Archibald Campbell of Blythwood
President: John McMillan
Vice President: D Fletcher
Treasurer: Mr A McKechnie
Finance Secretary: John Orr
Match Secretary: Mr A Craig
First Team Captain: John Paterson
Second Team Captain: George Fulton
With Partick Thistle failing to show for a match at Thistle Park on the 9th, Saints took on much fancied Shawfield in the semi-final of the Renfrewshire Cup a week later having played just twice in 2 months, however Davis scored a fine double to put the Paisley side through to their first ever cup final at their maiden attempt at knock out football. Barrhead side Arthurlie would be Saints opponents on the 30th at Thistle Park, however Partick Thistle failed to attend once more for a match in Paisley on the 23rd, leaving the Buddies short of match practice before their first ever final.
On the 29th of the month, a reception was held for Saints heroic goalkeeper John Burgess on the event of him being married and a purse with sovereigns presented to the popular player. The following day however, Burgess was unable to stop Arthurlie scoring three times and despite John Goold getting a goal back for Saints, they lost the Renfrewshire Cup Final 3-1 in front of a crowd of over 3,000 spectators in Paisley.
Saints take part in a 4 aside competition in Alexandria on the 18th but lose to favourites Queens Park in round 1. On the same day the club announces a charity match to be played on the 31st of the month against Rangers with all proceeds going to the ‘Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor’ in the town. The match is drawn 3-3 and is the first ever meeting between the clubs.
ONLY THE KNOWN GOALSCORERS AND APPEARANCES ARE GIVEN. MANY STARTING XI DETAILS AND SCORERS WERE NEVER RECORDED, THEREFORE ALL PLAYER TOTALS FOR THE SEASON ARE INCOMPLETE.
DATE COMP OPPOSITION V GROUND ATT SCORE O SCORERS 28/08/1880 CM John Elder A Govan 1-3 L 04/09/1880 SC1 Johnstone A H Thistle Park 3-0 W 18/09/1880 CM Johnstone A A Mossbank Park 1,000 1-3 L 25/09/1880 CM Petershill H Thistle Park 1-1 D 02/10/1880 SC2 17th RRV H Thistle Park 3-1 W 09/10/1880 RC1 Glenkilloch H Thistle Park 5-0 W Paterson (3) 16/10/1880 CM Alexandria A H Thistle Park 1-4 L 23/10/1880 SC3 Abercorn A Blackstoun Park 4,000 4-1 W 13/11/1880 SC4 Cowlairs H Thistle Park 1-0 W 27/11/1880 CM Clyde H Thistle Park 3-1 W 04/12/1880 SCQF Dumbarton H Thistle Park 1-5 L 25/12/1880 CM Kilmarnock A A Holm Quarry 1-6 L 08/01/1881 CM Alexandria A H Thistle Park 1,000 5-0 W 05/02/1881 RCQF Barrhead A Parkhouse 1-1 D 12/02/1881 RCQR1 Barrhead H Thistle Park 2-2 D 19/02/1881 RCQR2 Barrhead A Parkhouse 1-1 D 26/03/1881 RCQR3 Barrhead A Parkhouse 3-2 L 02/04/1881 CM Rangers’ Swfts H Thistle Park 1-1 D 16/04/1881 RCSF Shawlands A H Thistle Park 2,000 2-0 W Davis (2) 30/04/1881 RCF Arthurlie H Thistle Park 3,000 1-3 L Goold 07/05/1881 CM Largs Athletic A Largs 2-3 L 31/05/1881 CM Rangers H Thistle Park 3-3 D Davis Paterson Watt