After our day out in Dumbarton the day before, we were back in Glasgow and this time we would be staying within the city itself for our Scottish football fix. We would be visiting the home of Glasgow’s number one club…no not Celtic! And no not that measly third tier Scottish team Rangers. Today was all about Partick Thistle and by the end of the afternoon me and Sean had decided that they were THE Glasgow club and our Scottish team for life (sorry, Dumbarton). In fact, today we would be watching a Glaswegian derby as Celtic would be arriving across town for the 12:45pm kick-off at Partick’s Firhill Stadium. So how did infatuation with the Jags start?
Once again we awoke after a night out in Glasgow and once again karaoke seemed to be the thing to do in Glasgow with almost every pub having thick Glaswegian accents resonating from a mic of some sort. I opted to stay away from the microphone this time, but I did learn that the classic ‘Tell My Ma’ is just too fast for drunken Scottish women to sing on karaoke – comical nonetheless.
We began our journey to Thistle’s ground from Glasgow Central station and having discovered that morning how cheap taxis are in Glasgow, we thought we may as well get one to Maryhill – the district of Glasgow where Partick Thistle FC live. A whole £4.50 later we found ourselves outside a building which wouldn’t resemble a football ground if it wasn’t for the floodlights towering over each side of it. The Main Stand looked more like a classic old industrial building or offices – this was the first sign that I knew that I was going to love this place.
We had arrived around the ground much earlier than we had anticipated thanks to our option of getting a taxi, so we were looking for something to kill some time. Just as I had yesterday, before having the usual photos outside of the ground, I popped into the club shop and purchased myself a Partick Thistle scarf. This is another reason why I already had a soft spot for Thistle: their colours. How many teams play in red and yellow stripes? Not too many I can tell you that, although I did see a fair over-optimistic Thistle fans wearing this season’s Barcelona away kit which is the same colours as Thistle’s home shirt.
I’d been informed that the place to go prematch was the Star and Garter pub, which is located just 5 minutes around the corner from the ground, but we were still closer to 10am than we were to 11am so we went for a wander of the streets of Maryhill. I’ll be honest and say there was very little to see at this time, apart from red bricked terraced housing and closed shops, but we did eventually stumble upon the Cafe D’Jaconelli. What a find! We’d timed our visit to the caf perfectly, as the place was only small and shortly after we had taken our seats the place was beginning to brim with Partick fans and a scattering of Celtic fans. The breakfasts we had were top notch and I’d certainly recommend Cafe D’Jaconelli to anyone after some prematch grub. The cafe also features in the cult film Trainspotting!
We then headed back towards the ground to sort out our match tickets, as the club had sent me two tickets in two different stands. Fortunately, the club were more than happy to let both of us go in the Main Stand with the tickets we already had. We completed a lap of the ground (the other side of the ground to the Main Stand was certainly more modernised) and then headed past the gathering Sky Sports cameras and down the street towards the Star and Garter.
The Star and Garter was suitably adorned with Partick memorabilia and flags for a pub so close to the home of Thistle and the place was already full with home fans and small pocket of away fans with a good hour and half to go until kick-off. After our pints of Tennants (of course), we headed back over to the ground itself.
Our next port of call was the supporters’ lounge, which is housed within the Main Stand. Just as I had at Dumbarton the day before, I decided to switch over from Tennants to a bottle of Miller, but this time the lager of choice from my teenage years was not doing it for me and something was certainly ‘off’ with it. I hate to admit that I did not even finish it.
Anyway, with us able to say that we had visited the club bar, we thought we may as well head up into our seats in the Main Stand. There was now a huge queue beginning to snake around the stand leading into away end, leaving a trail of green and white up the street. The home end was far easier to get into – in fact, there was no queuing involved at all and we were straight into the ground with the first port of call being the rather ‘basic’ toilets directly to the right of our entrance. The sheer ramshackle state of the toilets I felt deserved a photo, but of course I didn’t want to look like too much of a weirdo, so I made sure there was no-one else in the toilets. Sadly, for me, I came across as the weird guy in the toilet as I had feared, as Sean heard two stewards murmur to each other, “I’m sure that lad in there is taking a photo of the toilets!” Oh well, the photo is below anyway to show I was not up to anything weird – and to show the basic facilities available at Firhill.
After climbing the steps further up into the Main Stand, the next stop was to be the food outlet, as I’d been informed by a few people on Twitter of something that had to be tried when experiencing Scottish football and something I’d forgotten to look into the day before at Dumbarton: macaroni pie. Yes, it sounds horrible to me as well. Having been weened onto pies of the meat and potato and generally anything covered in gravy variety since I moved to the north-west of England, the concept of cheese mixed with pastry was not one that really appealed to me too much, but ‘when in Rome…’ – well Glasgow….do as the Glaswegian do. The wait to get my hands on a macaroni pie was substantial to say the least; the queue for food was quite ridiculous and it just did not seem to be moving. There appeared to only be a couple of girls working behind the counter and there was a lot of hungry Scots (plus tow Welshmen) in the queue. After close to 15 minutes of queuing I eventually got my hands on my macaroni pie and having examined it, I was still to take some convincing. I decided to take it up to our seats before eating it. Here was one of the big surprises of the day: the macaroni pie was absolutely immense! It seems that pastry and cheese do go together in a perfect pie union! Beautiful stuff! Lets get more of these bad boys south of the border.
So where did we find ourselves sitting? Well, we didn’t find ourselves sitting at all really, we found ourselves standing at the back of the antiquated Main Stand next to a small window peering out onto the street below. We were positioned in the corner where the loudest of the Thistle fans were situated, nearest the away fans sitting in the adjacent stand. The Main Stand, built in 1927, was certainly showing its age with the wooden floorboards creaking below us as we walked onto the stands and with the couple of small supporting pillars holding the stand up. For a while the Main Stand had been closed by the club due to the costs of running it and stewarding it, but has been opened again for the bigger games at Firhill Stadium, such as today.
Opposite the Main Stand is the modern Jackie Husband Stand, which can hold 6,263 and is named after the former Partick centre back. Behind the one goal is the newest stand in the ground, The North Stand, which today, along with a small corner of the Jackie Husband Stand, was housing the Celtic support. Behind the opposite goal to the North Stand is just a barren grassy bank, obviously inaccessible to spectators, which I’m told is referred to by fans as ‘The Bing’ – no idea why.
Partick Thistle played at numerous grounds in the early years of their existence, before making their home at Meadowside in 1891. Meadowside, located next to the River Clyde was to be their home until 1908 when they were forced out as there was to be a shipyard built at that location. In 1909 Partick Thistle moved into Firhill, where they have played ever since. Although it is not just football that has featured at the ground; unsurprisingly, rugby has been played at the ground on several occasions with the Glasgow Warriors taking residency in the ground for a few years in the mid -2000s, but, more surprisingly, the ground was also used for greyhound racing during the 1930s to help the club with revenue.
Several other football clubs have called Firhill home with Clyde FC and Hamilton makingthe ground home on separate occasions throughout the 1990s and 2000s. However, the most strange team to play ‘home’ at Firhill Stadium has to be Swedish club Djugardens, who played their 1955/56 European Cup home leg against Hibernian at Thistle’s ground because of the freezing conditions in Sweden at the time. Incidentally, this was to be the first ever European Cup to be hosted within Glasgow.
The Partick fans were in full voice as the teams came out onto the pitch and the Main Stand was rocking to the tune of “Oh Maryhill! Is wonderful!” Today’s 12:45pm kick-off was underway.
At some point during the weekend, Sean had read that Partick had a bit of a reputation for seeking to play football the ‘right way’ and from the opening exchanges this was very evident. Despite competing against their more illustrious neighbours from across town, Partick Thistle were unfazed and attempted to play a nice, neat short passing game. However, Celtic were getting the much better chances as the half progressed and eventually they were laying repeated siege on the home goals in front of the green and white faithful. Fortunately, for Thistle, Jags goalie Scott Fox was in fine form and made a whole host of top class saves to deny Celtic.
Eventually, Celtic got their goal trouble-free in the 34th minute, as Giorgos Samaras found himself unmarked from a corner to header home easily and then wheel away towards the Celtic fans impersonating an archer in his celebration.
There was still time for Fox to once again deny Celtic, as he got down well to turn away Teemu Pukki’s sidefooted effort, which looked to be heading for the bottom corner, before making another great save to stop Pukki’s again minutes later.
Half-time: Partick Thistle 0 – 1 Celtic. Scott Fox had quite comfortably been the star of the who so far.
We had a bit of a wander of the Main Stand to takes some photos, before returning to our perch at the top of the stand.
The Jags came out for the second half all guns blazing and went straight at Celtic from the whistle. Celtic were under constant pressure and it was seeming to look like a matter of time until Thistle equalised. They looked to have done it in the 67th minute when a header from club legend Conrad Balatoni was sent goalwards towards Kris Doolan, who scooped his volleyed effort over Fraser Forster, but sadly for the Jags onto the crossbar. A groan went up from the home end as the ball was cleared back out of the box, but almost immediately the ball was whipped back into the box for Doolan to hit the ball a yard ahead of him and to poke him from close range. 1-0 to Partick and me and Sean celebrated as if we were lifelong fans of the Jags!
The crowd were now right behind Thistle as they tried to cheer them onto to victory. However, the momentum that the home team had built up since the whistle blew for the second half seemed to disappear slightly and a defensive error would lead to Celtic recapturing the lead. As Thistle dithered on the ball near the halfway line, Amido Balde won the ball and made a bee-line for the goal, before finishing comfortably past Fox to make it 2-1 to Celtic. The away end was now under a green smog, as the away fans unleashed the ‘pyro’ in the stands.
As the players finished celebrating, there was still one body left on the floor following their pile-on. In a strange turn of events, Emilio Izaguirre had to be stretchered off following an injury during the team’s celebration. Not something you see very often anyway!
The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Partick Thistle and even though there was still 15 minutes remaining of the game, Thistle never really got going again, despite pressuring the away team for remainder of the game. However, the fans had not waned and the final ten minutes of the game were played out to a backdrop of the Partick Thistle songbook from the home end.
Full-time: Partick Thistle 1- 2 Celtic.
Safe to say, we had great fun housed in the brilliant Main Stand with the Thistle faithful and I felt it was a very good game to watch as well. Was it the fans? The ground? The cafe before the game? Or maybe it’s just that they are Glasgow’s perennial underdogs. I’m not really sure what it was, but something made me take the Jags to heart and I wish them well for the rest of the season.
“Oh Maryhill! Is wonderful! Oh Maryhill is wonderful! It is the home of Partick Thistle! Oh Maryhill is wonderful!”
Highlights: brilliant, traditional ground, loved the Main Stand, Cafe D’jaconelli, macaroni pie, good game, good atmosphere with the home fans.
Low Points: not much around the ground, long queues for food.