Season 1890/91 was one of change for East Stirlingshire with more key players moving on to different clubs including Internationalists Hammond and Jones. Despite the upheavals the Shire reached the Scottish Cup Quarter Final for the 2nd time in our history, results in previous rounds including an unbelievable 10-6 win against Camelon and a 2-0 home win against Inverness Caledonian. The Quarter Final took place on 20th December at Bainsford against Heart of Midlothian but despite going in at half-time 1-1 the 2000 home crowd went home disappointed when 2 further goals in the 2nd period won the tie for the Edinburgh team. The game was marked by the saving of a certain Shire goal by deliberate hand of a Hearts defender but there was not such thing as penalties at that time so the incident wasn’t punished. Due to crowd disturbances after the game Merchiston Park was closed and it was nearly 3 months before another home game would be played there. This hand ball incident and others at the time lead to the introduction of the penalty kick the next season. Shire won all the local Cups; regaining the Stirlingshire Cup with an easy 5-1 win against Grangemouth in the Final, the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield beating Falkirk 5-3 in the March Final and again winning 2-0 against Falkirk in the Final of the Falkirk and District Charity Cup in May. The friendlies during the season included a northern New Year tour when Inverness Caledonian were beaten 5-0, then a huge 9-1 win was achieved against Aberdeen side Victoria United before losing 1-4 at Montrose. Also a 5-5 draw was recorded with Motherwell in March. On the 21st March Archie Ritchie became the 1st East Stirlingshire player to play for Scotland in a 4-3 win against Wales.
The next season League football arrive in Bainsford. In 1890/91 the Scottish League had been formed and although it was still only 1 Division at that time the major clubs not involved with it wanted to be in a League so the Scottish Football Alliance League was formed (the 2nd most important League in the country). The 12 team league included Airdrieonians, Ayr, Greenock Morton, King’s Park and Partick Thistle. Shire’s 1st ever league game took place on 15th August at Merchiston Park against Partick Thistle with captain Harry Reid scoring Shire’s 1st ever League goal in a 1-2 defeat. The league campaign was not a glorious one with only 7 wins being achieved and as a result the Shire were only in 10th place at the season end. One game of note was the incredible 6-6 draw at home to Linthouse on 19th December (Shire had even missed a penalty in the game). That season Preliminary Rounds were introduced in the Scottish Cup and Shire won through the 3 rounds before losing heavily 1-6 at home to Kilmarnock in the 1st Round proper. In the Local Cups Shire crashed out 0-2 away to Grangemouth in the 3rd Round and also lost both the Final of the Falkirk Hospitals Shield and Falkirk and District Charity Cup to Falkirk, 0-3 and 2-7 respectively. The club also had a northern tour at New Year, beating Orion 6-3 on New Year’s day in Aberdeen before drawing 2-2 at Inverness Caledonian the following day. 2 days later Ross County were comprehensively defeated 8-2 in Dingwall.
In 1892/93 moved over to the Scottish Football Alliance League which included Albion Rovers, Falkirk and Motherwell. However, league results weren’t great and Shire only achieved 7th place in the table. There was again Preliminary Rounds in the Scottish Cup and E.S. lost in the 3rd Preliminary Round 1-3 away to a strong Broxburn Shamrock who would reach the Semi Final of the Scottish Cup that season. In the 2 local cups played in 1892/93 Shire won the Stirlingshire Cup beating Kilsyth Wanderers in the Final and also reached the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield Final though we went down 2-5 to Falkirk.
The Shire moved Leagues again in 1893/94, this time to the Midland League which contained all the locals senior clubs including Alloa Athletic, Camelon, Falkirk, King’s Park and Stenhousemuir. Professionalism came to Scotland that season and East Stirlingshire immediately embraced the change. The Midland League campaign proved to a very successful one with the Shire winning the title, the 1st championship in our history, along the way chalking up home and away wins against Falkirk and Stenhousemuir. The largest home league win of the season was the 11-0 thumping of Bridge of Allan at Merchiston Park in January. Shire had to qualify for the Scottish Cup via the Preliminary Rounds and met Cambuslang away on 25th November in the 1st Round proper but lost out 2-3. 300 Shire fans had travelled to the game by special train arriving 20 minutes after it had started. E.S. retained the Stirlingshire Cup with an easy 5-0 win against Gairdoch in Final at Brockville Park in March. In the 2 Charity competitions Shire lost out to Falkirk in the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield Final 2-4 in a replay and in the Falkirk and District Charity Cup decided to scratch to Gairdoch in the Replayed Final. On the friendly scene teams from South of the border, after a number of years again travelled to Bainsford, Corinthians, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers all visited Merchiston Park during the season with the Shire losing out in each game. At the end of March Shire once more had a Scotland International player when forward Davie Alexander played in the wins against Wales and Ireland. Davie scored against Wales.
Shire remained in the Midland League the following season but could only finished 3rd in the title race. Despite large wins against Alva and Camelon, 10-0 and 11-0 respectively, it was the failure to beat Falkirk and Stenhousemuir that was the main culprit of Shire not retaining the title. E.S. went straight into the Scottish Cup 1st Round in 1894/95 but lost heavily, 1-5, away to Kilmarnock. The Stirlingshire Cup run was cut short in the 2nd Round when E.S. crashed out 1-2 away to Gairdoch. The Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield was over before it even started. On the 8th May Shire were drawn to play Falkirk in the Semi Final at Victoria Park, Camelon but only East Stirlingshire turned up. Falkirk had been unable to raise a team and asked for the game to be postponed. A subsequent protest by Falkirk was upheld and the game was to be replayed on 29th May however Shire decided to withdraw from the competition. The large number of friendlies that season included a 2-7 home defeat against Everton, 1-6 away defeat at Newcastle United and 2-0 home win against Blackburn Rovers. Shire also played Rangers in May at Bainsford losing 0-1 in front of a 1500 crowd.
1895/96 was dominated by Shire’s run in the 1st ever Scottish Qualifying Cup. The Midland League campaign seemed to take a backstep with E.S. again only achieving 3rd place. In the 1st Round of the Qualifying Cup Shire won a close 3-2 game at Bainsford against Falkirk then followed this up with an easy 7-0 home win against Black Watch in the next Round. In the 3rd Round at Whifflets 400 Shire fans saw Albion Rovers being defeated 2-0. We were favoured with a bye in the 4thRound before being drawn away to Blantyre in the 5th where a tight game was won 3-2. The next Round saw 700 Shire fans travelling the short distance to witness the club win 2-0 at Clackmannan. The Semi Final took place on 23rd November away to fellow Midland League club, King’s Park with a huge 900 travelling support travelled through on a special train. Shire won the tie 2-1 to reach the 8th December Final. The Final against Annbank took place at Underwood Park, Paisley, the home of Abercorn. Unfortunately Shire fell at the final hurdle going down 1-3 on the day. In the Scottish Cup Shire lost narrowly 2-3 against Hibernians in the 1st Round at Merchiston Park. In the local cups we went out in the 2nd Round of the Stirlingshire Cup to Stenhousemuir and in the Semi Final of the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield to Falkirk. There was better news in the Falkirk and District Charity Cup with Shire beating Camelon 3-2 in the Final. Friendlies included games against Celtic, Falkirk, Stenhousemuir and the last ever visit from Corinthians. E.S. Also travelled south twice for games against Everton XI and Woolwich Arsenal but lost both heavily 0-8 and 0-5 respectively. At the end of the season Shire applied to join the Scottish League for the 1st time but were unsuccessful.
The club moved to the Scottish Football Combination League in 1896/97 following the demise of the Midland League with Falkirk and Stenhousemuir also joining. Also Shire joined the East of Scotland League which also included Dundee, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernians, Leith Athletic and St. Bernard’s. Neither of the League campaigns were particularly successful though there were a few high notes with wins against Rangers and Celtic Reserves at home in the Combination and a 3-1 away win against Hibernians in the East of Scotland. East Stirlingshire failed to reach the Scottish Cup proper for the 1st time since first taking part in the competition in 1882/83 when we went out in Qualifying Cup 3rd Round Replay 0-2 to Falkirk at Brockville Park. After a gap of 3 seasons Shire won the Stirlingshire Cup beating Stenhousemuir 4-0 in the Brockville Park Final. However, Stenhousemuir gained their revenge over the Shire in the Final of the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield when they won 2-0. At Christmas time Shire went south for a tour, losing 0-6 to Blackpool on Christmas Day and 1-4 to Stoke the following day. On 26th April Liverpool were in Bainsford and Shire did well, in front of the nearly 2500 crowd, to draw 2-2. Shire again applied to join the Scottish League at the end of the season without success.
It was a change of Leagues again in 1897/98, this time Shire played in the Central Football Combination League against Falkirk, Stenhousemuir, Camelon and also the 2 Perth teams, Fair City Athletic and St. Johnstone. East Stirlingshire went on to win the 9 team League with an undefeated record, only drawing 2 games away to Camelon and Dunblane. The League form carried through into the Scottish Qualifying Cup campaign and by the time Shire defeated Raith Rovers at Merchiston Park 1-0 in the 5th Round Falkirk Amateurs, Kilsyth Wanderers, Stenhousemuir and Bo’ness had all be put to the sword. On 27th November Shire travelled to Aberdeen to play Orion (1 of the 3 teams that would go on in 1903 to form Aberdeen) in the Semi Final at Cattofield. 300 Shire fans travelled by train to swell the large 4000 crowd. In a close game Shire won 4-3 after being 2-0 up at the break. The Final took place 3 weeks later at Hampden Park in front of a crowd around 5000 which included a large number of Shire fans. The opposition was future Scottish League team Port Glasgow Athletic and it once again proved to be Final disappoint for East Stirlingshire as we went down 2-4. In Scottish Cup Raith Rovers were defeated 4-2 away in the 1st Round before the Shire went out in the next 1-3 away to Hibernians. Due to all the national Cup games Shire scratched from the Stirlingshire Cup that season and didn’t enter the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield. In 1897/98 East Stirlingshire made 2 unsuccessful applications to join the Scottish League, firstly in October when Renton resigned and the other at the end of the season. In March James “The Doctor” McKie became the Shire’s 3rd Scottish Internationist when he played in the team which defeated Wales 5-2, scoring 2 of the goals.
East Stirlingshire continued to play in the Central Football Combination League in season 1898/99 and also competed in the newly formed Falkirk District League. Shire again performed well in the Combination League eventually achieving the Runners Up spot. In the District League Shire proved too strong winning the 5 team league. Once again the main focus of the season was on the Scottish Qualifying Cup. After trouncing Alloa Athletic 7-1 at home in the 1st Round, Camelon were easily dispatched 4-1 away in the next Round. Fortune then favoured the Shire with byes in the next 2 Rounds before West Calder were defeated 3-1 at Merchiston Park in the 5th Round. E.S. travelled to play Wishaw Thistle in the 6th Round on 26th November but a friendly was played instead due to the ground being unplayable. So it was back to Old Public Park the following Saturday and the 4000 crowd (including 600 Shire fans) saw Shire win the tie easily 5-1. Another very large crowd of 4000 at Bainsford witnessed Shire win through to our 3rd Qualifying Cup Final in 4 seasons when Renton were defeated 3-1 in the Semi Final. The Final took place the following Saturday, 7th December, at Hampden Park. Finally Shire got in right on the day and we won the cup 4-1. The crowd of over 7000 was the largest for a Shire game to that time. Into the Scottish Cup and Shire comfortably beat Non league Dumbarton 4-1 at Bainsford in the 1st Round. In the next Round the club were once again drawn against Kilmarnock and an immense crowd of 6000 (by far the largest ever for a game in Stirlingshire and which would be the largest crowd in the county pre 1900) turned out on 11th December to watch a 1-1 draw. The replay the following week at Rugby Park was drawn 0-0 and therefore a 2nd Replay was required which took place 1 week later at Cathin Park, Glasgow. The 7000 crowd for the game, included the biggest ever travelling support for a Stirlingshire team, saw the Shire go out 2-4. In the local Cups E.S. went out in the 1st Round Stirlingshire Cup to King’s Park but won the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield beating Camelon 5-0 in the Final.
The last season of the Century was fairly low key for the club. Shire did compete in the Falkirk District League ending Runners Up and also in a 6 team Scottish County Football League including Hamilton Academical and Motherwell which wasn’t completed. The Scottish Qualifying Cup once again took centre stage with Shire winning a local derby in the 4th Round at Merchiston Park against Falkirk 4-2 before going out in the Quarter Final 1-3 at Raith Rovers. As fate would have it Kilmarnock were again Shire’s opponents in the 1st Round of the Scottish Cup but the Ayrshire team once more triumphed, this time 2 goals to nil at Rugby Park. Along with Falkirk E.S. scratched from the Stirlingshire Cup in 1899/1900 but we won the Falkirk Cottage Hospitals Shield with a 5-2 win against Falkirk Amateurs in the Final. On the 16th May the Shire applied to the Scottish League for the 5th time and were finally elected. We replaced Linthouse who did not apply for re-election.