Saturday 30th July 2011 ko 15.00
Scottish League Cup 1st Round
PARTICK THISTLE 1 (Cainey 28)
Paton sent off 47 (DOGSO)
Balatoni sent off 78 (DOGSO)
BERWICK RANGERS 3 (Gray 34 Noble 73 P Currie 78p)
I’m sure there’s little truth in the story about a traveller taking a taxi from Glasgow airport and the cabbie asking whether his passenger was Celtic or Rangers. The response of “Well I like Partick actually” elicited the response “Ah you like your football vanilla then?” While the tale does Partick Thistle a massive disservice there is the kernel of an alternative truth in it.
The fact of the matter is that Glasgow’s third club has managed to escape the scourge of sectarianism and as the product of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father the whole idea of worrying about what brand of Christianity to nominally follow leaves me completely cold. I found it quite a relief not to have to think about that nonsense as I parked up near Firhill, 9 years ago.
It is worth mentioning Partick don’t actually play in Partick, Firhill is in Maryhill; the club moved here in 1909, and Partick was only subsumed into Glasgow in 1912. These days Firhill is as clearly as any ground influenced by football in Scotland, and as much football in Glasgow itself.
The ground has the rather odd distinction of being the the venue of the first ever venue for a European Cup fixture in Glasgow, in 1955 when Djurgårdens played their “Home” tie against Hibernian here due to freezing conditions back home in Stockholm. Firhill was also the first ground to be used by more than one Scottish League team, when Clyde moved in in 1986 for 5 mostly unhappy seasons. Hamilton Academical had two spells here between leaving the old Douglas Park in 1994 and New Douglas Park opening in 2001
Then there were the alternative uses for the stadium too. There was greyhound racing between 1928 and 1957, and the Scotland Rugby League team played their first ever international here winning against Ireland in 1996. Glasgow Warriors RUFC used Firhill for Celtic League games from 2005-11. But what is Firhill like?
Let’s start with the main stand that for all the world looks like it’s another Archibald Leitch design. It isn’t but the stand, constructed in 1927 was designed by David Mills Duncan a former employee of Leitch so his influence is there! It’s curious in that it’s seldom used for spectators, being only in use for away fans when there’s likely to be more than 500 of them. It wasn’t in use when I went, and there’s no end of Scottish League grounds that have spare capacity as an insurance against 4 games a season against the “Auld Firm!”
The ground’s main capacity is the modern 6,263 capacity Jackie Husband Stand; the away fans normally get the northern end of it. It does seem odd walking past an unopened stand and the derelict “City End” terracing, but as modern stands go, the facilities are good, and the view excellent.
The John Lambie Stand at the northern end of the ground proved to be controversial when it was constructed in 2002. It was deemed necessary to bring Firhill up to the then requirement than all top flight grounds have a minimum of 10,000 seats. The cost to the club was ruinous even the building work was in part paid by selling land behind the new stand for student accommodation.
Then in 2004 the SPFL relaxed the rule to 6,000 seats; that allowed Inverness CT promotion, and here’s an irony- at Partick’s expense. The Glaswegians, having paid for a stand they didn’t need, took legal action lost and where relegated to Division One the next season. I have to say I do have sympathy for their position.
I caught Partick back in the Scottish second tier so playing Third Division (now styled League 2) Berwick should have been a home banker. It didn’t, mainly due to the hosts losing 2 defenders to red cards for denying obvious goalscoring opportunities. 9 versus 11 was too much even with a two division difference between the two clubs. Berwick picked up a rather surprising win, and both sides were destined to finish mid-table in their respective divisions.
Time has not been kind to either Partick or Berwick. The Wee Gers lost their place in the SPFL in 2019 following a play-off against Cove Rangers and finished 12th from 16 in the Lowland League on Points Per Game. Their route back looks highly complicated by the slew of former Junior clubs moving over to the Senior non league game.
Partick Thistle spent 2013-18 back in the Premiership but were relegated from the now second tier Championship on Points Per Game at the end of this last curtailed season . They and Hearts (relegated from the Premiership) have taken legal advice and the case goes to arbitration imminently. I can’t see the panel doing anything other than finding in the SPFL’s favour but I suspect the machinations will carry on for some time to come.