In the early days of organised Scottish football the Vale of Leven was a powerhouse of footballing talent, with both Renton F.C. and Vale of Leven F.C. winning major titles before the dominance of the larger city teams.
Founded in 1872, Renton F.C. with their motto of "Never Say Die" were original members of the Scottish Cup tournament, defeating Kilmarnock 2 -0 on 18th November 1873. As this was the first of three games to kick off in the Cup that day, this is believed to be the very first official competitive football match to take place in Scotland. The team were knocked out in a semi-final clash against Queens Park reaching the final the following year, only to be defeated once again by Queens Park. Renton finally lifted the cup in 1885, beating Vale of Leven F.C., and again in 1888. The 1888 victory was followed by a match against the FA Cup winner West Bromwich Albion, with Renton winning the match with four goals to one in front of six thousand spectators at Cathkin Park, Glasgow. With football exclusively being played in England and Scotland at the time Renton were proclaimed "Champions of the World" and a sign stating this was proudly displayed outside their ground at Tontine Park.
Although a founder of the Scottish Football League the following years were not kind to the team. After being suspended from the league for playing against a professional team they were later readmitted, but the growth of professionalism led to them being relegated to the second division. Unable to meet their financial obligations the team withdrew from the League four games into the 1897 - 98 season.
1872 also saw the founding of Vale of Leven F.C. based at Millburn Park, Alexandria. The team won the Scottish Cup 3 times in succession, 1877, 78 & 79, a remarkable achievement at the time. To commemorate this achievement a cup with the players names inscribed was presented to the team. Around the rim the following words are written: "This Cup to be held by the under mentioned or the survivors of them collectively in such custody as they may from time to time determine and ultimately to become the property of the last survivor". The players held an annual gathering with the cup present to remind them of their victories until Andrew McIntyre, the last survivor, died in 1941. The cup was then presented to the local authority and today is on permanent display at the Scottish Football Museum, Hampden.
In 1878 The Vale travelled to England to play against The Wanderers, winners of the FA Cup, defeating them, but unlike Renton there was no "World Champion" title for them. A founder member of the Football League the team were becoming eclipsed by the larger teams from Dumbarton and Glasgow. In the second year of the League the team failed to win a game and, not surprisingly, finished last. The club withdrew from the League and entered the Scottish Alliance, a rival league. Throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century the team drifted between the Football League, the Scottish Alliance and the local district league until with the onset of the Great Depression the team folded, a common end to many small football teams at the time.