THISTLE DO NICELY
There are two great myths surrounding Partick Thistle
which have been circulated for decades by journalists too lazy to
bother with the truth. One is that 'everybody has a soft spot for Thistle.'
Ask the average supporter of other West of Scotland sides and you will
be told that the only soft spot most have for Partick is a plot of ground
six feet below the surface.
The second myth is that the Jags are the 'great unpredictables.'
That hasn't been the case since the foundation of the Premier Division
more than quarter of a century ago - and was more myth than fact even
before that. Partick's relationship with the Premier is highly predictable:
struggle to get there, fight like furies to stay there, get relegated
after a few seasons, take ages to get back, fight like furies to stay
In recent seasons there has even been a concerted effort to portray them
as media luvvies. The team the stars support. Firhill as Glasgow's Stamford
Bridge. How ludicrous. As if anyone would ever mistake Maryhill for the
King's Road. The only time Thistle ever looked like Chelsea
was around 1990 when the odious Ken Bates wanted to buy them as
a feeder side.
As for being favoured by the glitterati, this is simply a convenient excuse
for big names in music, film and TV to parade their football chic without
alienating half their audience by revealing which side of the Old Firm
divide their true allegiances lie on. That said, John Lambie's
team talks would be a natural for 'Chewin' The Fat's 'Glesca
After all this, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there is no reason
to welcome the return of top flight football to Maryhill. Au contraire,
as they say between sips of Chardonnay and mouthfuls of foie gras in the
Jackie Husband stand, there is every reason to be delighted at the prospect
of SPL football in G20.
For Partick Thistle represent the only outlet for the Glaswegian
football supporter who doesn't want religious bigotry to determine support
for a professional football team. Yes, I know Queen's Park still
proudly play at Hampden but I use the word professional deliberately.
Scottish football can never repay the debt it owes to the pioneers from
Mount Florida, but the amateurs will never play at the top level again.
Therefore, the Glaswegian sickened by the Old Firm has to turn to Thistle
or leave town.
It wasn't always thus. As comparatively recently as 1958, Glasgow sported
SIX clubs in the old First Division. That year was the last that
Queen's Park played at such a high level. Since then they have earned
short-lived promotions to the intermediate divisions of the League.
Third Lanark folded in 1967 and Clyde gave up Shawfield
in 1986 - embarking on a nomadic existence centred on Firhill and Douglas
Park before moving to Cumbernauld.
Which leaves us with the 'Harry Wraggs.'
Over the same period they have known both joy and despair. The never-to-be
forgotten League Cup victory in October 1971 came less than 18
months after being relegated for the first time in nearly 70 years. They
missed out on the initial Premier season but were the first winners of
the new First Division.
After six years they were relegated and spent a decade out of the big
time. Coming back in 1992, they spent another four years in the Premier
before being cruelly relegated in extra time in a play-off at Tannadice.
That began a rapid descent to Thistle's rock bottom. Two seasons later
they were in the Second Division. Other 'big' teams had reached that level
- Dunfermline, Falkirk, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone - but they had usually
escaped it quickly. Not Thistle. In 1998-99 they avoided the drop to the
Third by a single point. In March 1999, John Lambie returned as
manager - not so much a caretaker as an undertaker, it seemed.
Consolidation was the name of the game the following year
before Thistle started their remarkable climb back to the summit by winning
the Second Division title in 2001, finishing 17 points ahead of runners-up
Arbroath. Then came last season and a second successive title and promotion
- ten points ahead of Airdrie.
It is a wonderful achievement, against all the odds. It
looked like the Jags would be dead and buried or, at best, eke out an
existence hovering between the First and Second Divisions. Absolutely
no one would have predicted two years ago that they would be back in the
SPL ready to resume where they left off in 1996. For the fixture list
has sent Dundee United to Maryhill on the opening day of the season.
Here is a team which has refused to give up, not just in the face of economic
adversity in recent times. But one which has also refused to knuckle under
to the Old Firm for more than a century. Where others have given up the
ghost, moved away or gone under, Thistle, alone of the Glasgow clubs,
have dared to dream that they can compete with the Big Two.
Thistle have produced some great players over the years. Alan Rough
and Alan Hansen are probably the best known but they have a history
of Scottish internationalists going way back and have been the home of
some of the best-known characters in the game, like Chic Charnley
for example. They have even competed in Europe twice - three times if
you count their ill-starred Intertoto campaign in 1995. And, in boss Lambie,
they have another of the great characters of Scottish football.
Such a history would, by itself, merit a warm welcome to the SPL. But
the real reason to feel good about the return of the Jags is one that
would pass without comment in any other city on the planet. You can
go and support them without fear of taking sides in a sectarian conflict
fuelled by bigotry and nursed by prejudice.
John Lambie: Ask HIM what it means
If you believe some of the Scottish press, Firhill
is less the Theatre of Dreams than the place where luvvies dream of the
IT'S A FIX
We'd like to bring you the full fixture list for 2002-03.
We know that it's particularly useful for non-UK based supporters who
are unable to receive British TV/radio and can't get their hands on a
football annual overseas. We know how useful it is in being able to plan
your trips home so that you can see your favourite team in action. We'd
like to provide this service but we can't.
Why not? Well, we don't have a spare four grand lying around in
loose change. That's how much the SPL and the SFL want to
charge websites for providing this simple information.
Scandalous, isnt it? That's what some fans think and they've got together
to organise an online petition. You can find the details here.
How are the mighty fallen? When David Seaman's autobiography
'Safe Hands' (and no, you won't find it in the fiction department)
was published last year, it looked like a nice little earner for the England
keeper with the prospect of a reprint after a successful World Cup.
How galling it must have been then to see his tome languishing
on the UK site of internet auctioneers eBay. Within an hour of
going up for auction, the book attracted its first bid - the less-than-princely
sum of £1-95.
For the next ten days, the price was like Seaman at a free
kick - it didn't make a move. Then, with just ten minutes to go, a buyer
charged to the rescue, crashing through the £2 barrier.
What a relief for England's finest. The book may, like some
of the goals he's conceded, have been sold cheaply. But at £2-30
it's still more expensive than Andrex. Just.
FAME OF THE GAME
We asked on our SFAQs page
why certain Scottish 'greats' aren't in the Hall of Fame. The Scottish
Football Museum's Project Director, Ged O' Brien, replies:
"None of the greats are in the SFA's Hall of Fame for the simple
reason that such a thing does not exist.....yet.
You might be confusing the HoF with the 50 Cap Club where the SFA commission
a portrait of a player when they reach that milestone. They used to hang
in the Copper Canopy Room at Park Gardens.
The Scottish Football Museum has dedicated a space within the Museum at
Hampden for a HoF and have been working for many years on a set of rules:
no easy task I can tell you. We will announce the HoF when we are happy
the correct format.
On another subject: we currently have on show the Home International Championship
trophy on loan from the IFA."
The love of your life has a past you don't know about....
VISIT THE SCOTTISH FOOTBALL MUSEUM at HAMPDEN PARK, GLASGOW
Open Monday - Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Sundays 11 am - 5 pm
Tel: 0141 616 6100
Fax: 0141 616 6101