April 25, 2009 – Firhill Stadium, Glasgow
I was sorely tempted to attend one of the Scottish Junior Cup semi final second leg games but instead stuck to club loyalties and went along to Firhill.
The home of Partick Thistle is one of my favourite ‘away’ grounds, which is mainly why I didn’t make for either Auchinleck or Alexandria, but I definitely lost out on entertainment value as Livingston and Thistle served up a poor game.
All the signs were good going in the preamble to this game. The spring sun was shining and I managed to squeeze in a Hot Dog Dan before boarding the supporters bus to Firhill.
For the uninitiated, Hot Dog Dan is something of a Livingston institution, if such a thing exists. Stationed outside the library at Carmondean near to Livingston North train station, Dan the Canadian vendor serves up hot dogs of the highest quality.
While I probably wouldn’t advocate making the trip to Livingston especially to buy one, they are certainly worth a go if you are in the area.
Anyway, the sun was still out as the bus unloaded just outside the imposing but aesthetically pleasing facade of Firhill’s grand old stand.
It’s a wonderful old building, although seldom used these days unless Thistle draw a big teams in one of the cups.
I was fortunate enough to partake in hospitality at Firhill a couple of seasons ago, and on that occasion we were seated in the centre of the old stand. That arrangement has now ended with all corporate facilities relocated into the rear of the newer Jackie Husband Stand opposite.
The Aitken Suite which was used for hospitality back then is now open as a public bar on matchdays and with visiting supporters welcome, I dropped in for a couple of pints with my friends.
Last orders were called at 2.30pm, very loudly as I recall, so I was in tbe ground well before kick off.
Away supporters are accommodated in the North Stand at Firhill, a recent addition to the stadium which was thrown up when Thistle needed to meet the old 10,000 seat criteria imposed by the SPL.
It offers a decent end view of the game, but there’s nothing even remotely remarkable about its construction. It’s just a bog standard concrete, steel and plastic ensemble seating about 2,000.
With very little left to play for the small Livi away support was even smaller than usual, allegedly numbering 190. That being the case there wasn’t any problem in finding a decent seat so I opted to perch right behind the goals.
From the away supporters perspective, Firhill offers three contrasting views.
To the right is the old stand, deserted yet exuding a character that is sadly lacking in modern stadia. With its faded red seats it’s crying out for a bit more care and attention, but for cash strapped Thistle it’s difficult to do anything more than the bare minimum in terms of maintainence.
The seating runs about three-quarters of the length of the field with the club’s ‘executive offices’ and dressing rooms at the far end. The piece de resistence, in my humble opinion, is the roof gable although it’s lost a smidgen of it’s charm through a couple of paint jobs over the past two decades.
It now bears the new Partick Thistle logo, introduced as part of a re-branding exercise undertaken last summer.
To the left is the aforementioned Jackie Husband Stand, where the Shed once stood. One of my finest memories as a young Meadowbank support came on the deep covered terrace which occupied this side.
In April 1992 we pooped Thistle’s promotion party with a 2-1 end of season win which was made all the more special because it was achieved with a makeshift young team put together by caretaker manager Donald Park. Happy days.
When I think about it, the Jackie Husband Stand has been in situ for quite a while now, certainly well over a decade. With it’s mass of grey seats, edged with red and yellow, I’ve always thought it looked a bit continental.
Bearing in mind that it’s in the middle of Maryhill perhaps that’s me taking poetic licence a bit far, though!
Finally, at the opposite end there is an odd hump of mud-cum-grass. Until a couple of years ago it was a proper uncovered terrace, but it was demolished when Thistle put in a planning application to build an office development and fourth stand.
With hindsight it may have been wise to hold off until planning was granted (because it wasn’t). With their application given the bums rush by Glasgow City Council, Thistle have been left with an unsightly grassy knoll which looks more like the kind of thing you might find in a junior ground.
Even allowing for the deconstructed end, Firhill is still one of the great Scottish football grounds in my view.
And these days it’s now a prominent rugby venue also, with Glasgow Warriors now well established as tenants.
Their rent gives Thistle some vital income, although the hallowed turf has often taken a battering as a result of the Friday night egg-chasing.
When I visited Firhill late last season there was barely a blade of grass on the pitch, although it seems to have withstood the scrums, rucks and mauls a bit better this term.
In fact had it not been for the poorly disguised rugby pitch markings, the Firhill pitch’s dual role would not have been all that easy to spot.
With the weather good and pitch in decent nick there weren’t really any excuses for players not serving up a good game.
Yet they failed quite spectacularly. There’s no getting away from the fact that this was the kind of game that might get football stopped.
There was the customary dose of effort from both sides but there was very little to rave about. Even the appearance of Livingston’s exciting young striker Leigh Griffiths failed to lift proceedings above the utterly mediocre.
Perhaps the day was summed up when, in a fit of second half pique, he gave one of the advertising boards behind the Partick goal a hefty boot… injuring himself in the process.
Despite a couple of half chances – including a decent free-kick effort from Livingston’s Tony McParland – the game looked destined to finish up goalless from quite an early stage.
It was ironic then, that Thistle, wearing pink, snatched the points with a last minute penalty after one of the Livi defenders was adjudged to have blocked an incoming shot with a hand.
The spot kick itself carried a fair amount of pressure with Thistle’s lingering title hopes hinged on a successful conversation. To be fair to Liam Buchanan, a Firhill favourite, the execution was excellent with Livi ‘keeper Roddy McKenzie sent the wrong way.
Thistle’s fans were delighted with the win, obviously, but I doubt even they would have been using too many superlatives to sum up what was a dreadful game.
Firhill for Thrills? Not this time!
Scoring – 1-0 Buchanan (88 pen)
Attendance – 2803
Admission – £15
Programme – £2.50
Ground – 8/10. Classic marriage of old and new
Game – 4/10. End of season dirge
Overall experience – 5/10. Might have been better off at a junior game
Match Report Links
Partick Thistle FC official website – LiviNews