Brief history

A brief history of Partick Thistle Football Club by club historian Robert Reid.

This great Glasgow institution first saw the light of day in 1876 in Partick, hence the name. Over the next 33 years Thistle operated from various homes, among them Kelvingrove, Jordanvale, Muirpark, Inchview and Meadowside, before moving to Firhill in 1909. The first match at their new home produced the following result on 18th September 1909:

1921 Cup winners in the old blue jerseys

Partick Thistle 3 v 1 Dumbarton Harp1921

History tells us that the 1 came before the 3. What a shame that the first ever goal scored on Firhill was by the visiting team! It's an even greater shame that quite the number of goals scored since then have been by visiting teams as well!

On the playing front Thistle's two greatest achievements have been winning the Scottish Cup in 1921 and the Scottish League Cup in 1971, in both cases against all the odds, but then that's typical of Thistle. When did they ever do what was expected of them?

The 1921 heroes, who defeated Rangers 1-0 in the Scottish Cup Final at Parkhead on 16th April 1921, were as follows:
Capmbell, Crichton, Bulloch, Harris, Wilson, Borthwick, Blair, Kinloch, Johnstone, McMenemy, Salisbury. Johnny Blair scored the only goal of the game.

McParland and captain Alex Rae with the cup

On 23rd October 1971, Thistle created nothing short of a major sensation in the football world when in the League Cup Final they demolished the all-conquering Celtic team of that period by four goals to one, having led and incredible 4-0 at half-time! The manager was Davie McParland, and the names of the players run ever so easily of every Thistle tongue:

Rough, Hansen, Forsyth, Glavin, Campbell, Strachan, McQuade, Coulston, Bone, Rae, Lawrie. Sub: Gibson. Alex Rae, Bobby Lawrie, Denis McQuade and Jimmy Bone all found the Celtic net, much to the delight of all Thistle fans (and a few good others as well!).

From 1921 to 1971 is obviously a very long time, two generations to be exact. Patience is an essential part of the Thistle fans' make-up, but inbetween those dates the team wasn't totally unsuccessful by any means, as three League Cup Final defeats, one Summer Cup success and the winning of sundry Glasgow Cup and Glasgow Charity Cups will testify, not to mention the restyled First Division Championship in 1976.

"Firhill For Thrills" was the motto. The team played exciting, open, free-flowing (not always successful) football, and nobody worried too much if results varied from inconsistent to downright unpredictable. This was all part of the fun, a word totally absent from the modern, ultra serious, "all about getting a result" type of football. How is this for the opening of a new season?

Rough, Houston & Hansen

Saturday: Partick Thistle 1 v 5 Hibernian
Wednesday: Celtic 2 v 5 Partick Th
Saturday: St Mirren 5 v 1 Partick Th
Disappointing to exhilarating to embarrassing, all in the space of a week!

Thistle have had many outstanding players over the years, but seldom have there been eleven wearing the famous colours at the same time! Pre-war there was Johnny Jackson, George Cummings, Eddie McLeod, Peter McKennan (Ma Ba'Peter), Jackie Husband, the long throw expert after whom the new East Stand which opened on 3rd December 1994 has been named, and then post-war such wonderful exponents of the football art such as Johnny McKenzie, a wing wizard, and the eminently skilful Willie Sharp, scorer of Britain's quickest ever League goal, just 7 seconds after kick-off. More recently the Thistle fans have been thrilled by the skills of the inimitable Alan Rough, the elegant Alan Hansen and of course the (later to become) controversial Maurice Johnston.

Thistle for Europe! Why not, they have been there three times before. Qualification for the Fairs Cup in 1963 was secured by finishing in 3rd place in the old Scottish First Division in season 1962-63. Glentoran were dismissed with consummate ease 7-1 on aggregate but Thistle lost 4-0 to Spartak Bino of Czechoslovakia, having won by only 3-2 at Firhill. The next crack at Europe came via the UEFA Cup in 1972, by virtue of the League Cup success the previous year. The crack Hungarian team Honved of Budapest proved to be too difficult a hurdle and Thistle went out 4-0 over two legs. Then in 1995 Thistle became the first (and so far only) Scottish team to take part in the Inter Toto Cup. Not the most ideal way to try and gain entry to Europe and the UEFA Cup, expecially considering the first match took place at the end of June, but if a team like Juventus can enter it, why not Thistle? Unfortunately the Jags never made it past the group stage, only gaining one victory, beating Icelandic side Keflavik 3-1 at Firhill. But they did have a memorable match against Metz were they played very well to only go down 1-0 in France.

The fans against Metz

What kind of people support Thistle, The Jags, The Maryhill Magyars, and the Harry Wraggs? Well, there aren't millions of them, and that suggests being a Thistle fan is, to say the least, difficult and beyond the capabilities of the average person. Not everyone wants to be teased mercilessly in the workplace or at school by those who take the easy way out and latch themselves onto those clubs that, for all sorts of reasons, win more than Thistle do. Not everyone can easily get over seeing his favourite players transferred to other clubs. Over the years, the comedians have had a field day at Thistle's expense with all those tired jokes about the Thistle supporters holding their meetings in a telephone box. Jags fans may be thin on the ground but they are resilient, durable, even if by nature a little masochistic.

There's a well know Glasgow football team: They don't play in blue; they don't play in green.

These few words describe the Partick Thistle position perhaps as adequately as any others could possibly do. With the benefit of hindsight, one would have to say that it was an inspired move which in the middle 1930's saw Thistle discard the dark blue colours in favour of the distinctive red and yellow!

For the statistically minded, the record League crowd for Firhill was set on 18th February 1922, when Thistle and Rangers attracted an audience of 49,838. On one occasion 17,000 even attended a Reserve fixture versus Celtic! With and average home crowd nowadays of 2,000, it is hard to imagine that in 1953 in the League Cup Final against East Fife; Thistle played before a Hampden crowd of 88,529. The most capped Thistle player is the incomparable Alan Rough, who kept goal for Scotland with distinction on no fewer than 53 occasions. The biggest victory achieved by Thistle is 16-0 against Royal Albert in a Scottish Cup Tie on 17th January 1931, while on the darker side the Jags once lost 0-10 to Queen's Park - but that was away back on 3rd December 1881!

1st Division Champions 2001/02

No doubt the Partick Thistle story will take many an unpredictable twist in the years ahead. After the worrying times of a few years ago when in the words of chairman Brown McMaster, "the club only survived because it's supporters refused to allow it to die", things are now back on more secure footing and with back to back league titles secured, the Second Division in 2001, followed by the First Division this year, the club are now back to where many consider to be their rightful place - the top flight of Scottish football.

Tom Hughes, Robert Reid & Brown McMaster with the two cups


First Division Champions: 1975/76, 2001/02
First Division Runners-up: 1991/92
2nd Division Champ: 1896/97, 1899/00, 1970/71, 2000/02
Second Division Runners-up: 1901/02
Scottish Cup Winners: 1921
Scottish Cup Runners-up: 1930
League Cup Winners: 1971
League Cup Runners-up: 1953, 1956, 1958
Glasgow Cup Winners: 1935, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1960, 1981, 1989
Glasgow Charity Cup: 1929, 1935, 1949

For more Thistle history, check out THE EARLY YEARS (the early history of Thistle) and THISTLE PLAYERS A-Z (a site with a complete A-Z listing of every Thistle player from 1960's to present (plus every other League side in the UK) not to be missed).