The man behind me smiles to himself proudly at having come up with this witty remark and at the chuckle it got from the surrounding seats. It’s fair to say his other musings that day haven’t been as razor sharp or beautifully delivered. Ranging from the bleeding obvious, “Thistle this is absolute pish!” to the slightly demented, “Donnelly! You go and fucking dae him now! You lazy shite!” to just not quite making sense, “Ho ref! That wis further out than you are fae the closet ya dafty!” This last line was delivered in a spittle infused rant lasting about half a second.
Unfortunately this banter wouldn’t live up to the magnificent condemnation of an entire town by an eight year old boy last year at Dunfermline. Spurred on by an amused father this small mop of blonde hair behind me stood up on his seat, turned to the home fans and proudly proclaimed in a high pitched squeal; “Yoos are all dick heads!” before sitting back down to applause and high fives from his fellow supporters and jeering from his victims.
A similar eruption exploded from another extremely articulate child who, in the stunned silence after the opposition’s second goal, tried and failed to start a rendition of “THE REFEREE’S A WANKER!”
Scottish football’s second tier never usually makes for entertaining games. I have been following my local team Partick Thistle in a, what you might say, on-and-off fashion for the last four years. Glasgow’s third team are famed for being that place where overprotective middle class parents try to get their children into football but not Celtic or Rangers heaven forbid. Under 16s get in free to Thistle games and over the last couple of years I have exploited this with varying degrees of enthusiasm. From being a fanatical, diehard ultra away at Ibrox in the cup two seasons ago haughtily joining in with songs about Nacho Novo pleasuring himself; to squinting through thick fog to watch what appeared to be a heroic comeback against Inverness; to being a bored neutral last Saturday afternoon.
From being promotion candidates a few years back Thistle (never to be called Partick having always played in Maryhill) have found themselves on a downward slide into mid table mediocrity. A slight outsider to be relegated but never coming close to promotion. Mid table mediocrity in the Irn Bru Scottish Championship Division One isn’t really the beautiful game in all it’s glory.
The afternoon had started well. My first love, Manchester City, had impressively beaten Chelsea in the day’s early kick off and, with the sun in the sky and a friend’s season ticket in my pocket I wandered up to Firhill Stadium fairly optimistically.
Having arrived five minutes late I found a seat and watched as last season’s injury prone, eccentric and five foot tall striker squandered an easy effort from being one on one with the goalkeeper. This was about as good as it got. Head tennis ensued. Thistle seemed weaker, smaller and less confident than the visitors from today. Dunfermline sat and watched “the Jags’” atrocious passing – in particular midfielder Paddy Boyle repeatedly kicked thin air with the ball at his feet. And there was little more than a sigh of resignation from the home crowd when inevitably Dunfermline took the lead. Defensive errors combined to set up a well placed finish from just outside the box.
Firhill was unsurprisingly quiet that afternoon. On my approach to the ground I wondered if there was in fact a game on until I caught a glimpse of the away fans who, embarrassingly, numbered about the same as the home support. Along the side of a wall was scrawled in red and yellow paint the legend “Johnny Lambie’s Red and Yellow Army.” A reminder of past glories. Next to this however was a brilliantly shiny Aston Martin Vantage belonging to that striker I mentioned earlier. It bore a personalised number plate.
At half time the crowd was subjected to a local Boys Brigade playing bagpipes and regular bursts of Mr Brightside blaring from the tannoy system at a stupid volume. The half time draw wielded no luck for me. First prize; half the ticket revenue. Second prize; the ‘mystery’ prize. It’s always a ball. Dunfermline were booed back on. Partick Thistle were booed back on. This despite to announcer’s well meaning but inappropriate “Let’s hear the Jag’s fans ROAR!”
As disgruntled Bovril sippers returned Thistle again started brightly. The left back Paton playing some cute one-twos with a teammate before a cross cum shot curled wide. After that though normal service resumed and with a substitution because of injury came a break from the head tennis and frustrated lack of footballing ability and a chance for certain sections of the crowd to shout at the linesman. In fairness the linesman wasn’t having his greatest game. Many times the ball was clearly over the touchline but a throw in was consistently denied Thistle’s way.
Things got worse for Thistle when Dunfermline doubled their lead with their second shot of the match. It went down as an own goal; rebounding off the post for the defender and keeper to pathetically bundle home. For want of a better cliché; this really summed up the game. The ground emptied. And Thistle, having been booed on to the pitch were resoundingly booed off the pitch.
As the crowd strolled back home they bemoaned the lack of funds available to sack the manager. The game had been abysmal. Four shots in the entire thing. Perhaps my mind was elsewhere as I walked home. Eastlands probably because twice during my return trip I forgot the score of the match I’d just watched or… endured.