Partick Thistle were formed in 1876 and initially led a nomadic existence playing at Kelvingrove, Jordanvale Park, Muir Park and Meadowside. The latter field was on the banks of the Clyde and by 1908 was needed for a new shipyard. The Jags had acquired land owned by the Caledonian Railway in Maryhill for the princely sum of £5,500. The new stadium was ready to be used in August 1909 but occupation had to be delayed for a month when it was discovered the club had failed to apply for a safety licence and, indeed, planning permission for the new ground. With all boxes belatedly ticked Firhill opened for business and by 1922 had set its all time record attendance for a Partick Thistle match when 49,838 crammed in for a match against Rangers.
The present main stand dates from 1927, a detail nicely remembered on the ornate roof pediment above the main entrance. The stand itself is very similar in design to those of the legendary stadium architect Archibald Leitch and with good reason. The stand was designed by David Mills Duncan a one time employee of the great man. Within a year of the new stand’s inauguration the attendance record was shattered when 54,728 were present for a Scotland v Ireland British International Championship match.
After a spell being converted to accommodate greyhound racing in the 1930’s Firhill became one of the great Scottish grounds. The 1950’s saw on field success matched with improving infrastructure, terracing was partially roofed and floodlighting arrived in 1955. Over more recent times, Clyde, Hamilton Academicals and the Glasgow Warriors rugby union side have shared the facilities at Firhill. The tightening of safety laws for sporting venues saw the stadium’s capacity savagely cut and modernisation was deemed the way forward. First to arrive, in 1994, was the Jackie Husband stand housing over 6,000 spectators. More recently the North Stand was replaced with a new 2,000 seater cantilevered stand. The opposite end, the City End, was supposed to have a new 1,000 seater stand but bafflingly the council refused planning permission. The end is now an empty grassed bank strewn with advertising, the Jags fans have called it “The Bing”.
These days the away fans are housed in the old main stand and, today it is well populated by travelling Motherwell fans. They prefer a more European style of support, drumming, bouncing and harmonising while the core of the Jags support in the North Stand prefer a more traditional chant, their acerbic wit coming to the for, especially the moments after Stephen Lawless opens the scoring for the home side.
The whole stadium, both sets of supporters, then breaks out into heartfelt applause marking the sixth anniversary of the tragic death of Phil O’Donnell. The Motherwell icon who suffered a fatal heart attack playing against Dundee United in 2007.
After this touching and shared moment its one way traffic as Motherwell rattle in five super goals without Thistle ever looking like ending their winless home hoodoo. It was good to pick up a copy of “Sick in the Basin”, the reborn Jags fanzine lost in action for many years.
It was a great experience sitting in a vocal crowd that didn’t stop supporting their team despite a severe beating. Despite piecemeal modernisation and the missing end, the retention of the Leitch-esque stand and its roof gable gives that warm glow of more halcyon days for the Jags.
And as for the new King of Firhill? Well on today’s showing, he is still awaiting coronation.
Scottish Professional Football League Premiership – Sunday December 29th 2013
Partick Thistle (1) 1 (Lawless 7)
Motherwell (3) 5 (Lasley 14, Francis-Angol 20, McFadden 36, Ainsworth 57, Sutton 65)
Attendance: 4,588 (at Firhill)
1. Scott Fox, 2. Stephen O’Donnell, 3. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, 6. Conrad Balatoni, 7. James Craigen, 8. Stuart Bannigan, 9. Kris Doolan (c), 11. Stephen Lawless, 13. Gabriel Piccolo, 14. Christie Elliott, 23. Kallum Higginbotham.
Subs: 5. Aaron Muirhead, 10. Ross Forbes (for 14,27 mins), 12. Paul Gallacher (for 11,60 mins), 17. John Baird, 20. Mark Kerr, 29. Lee Gallacher, 31. David Wilson.
51. Dan Twardzik, 14. Keith Lasley (c), 3. Steven Hammell, 4. Simon Ramsden, 6. Stephen McManus, 17. Zaine Francis-Angol, 18. Stuart Carswell, 24. Henri Anier, 25. Lionel Ainsworth, 7. James McFadden, 11. Iain Vigurs.
Subs: 8. Paul Lawson (f0r 18,75 mins), 9. John Sutton (for 24,57 mins), 12. Gunnar Nielsen, 15. Adam Cummins, 16. Robert McHugh (for 7,79 mins), 22. Craig Moore, 23. Euan Murray.
Yellow Cards: Bannigan, Higginbotham (Partick), Vigurs (Motherwell)