Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spotlight on......Partick Thistle

24th October 2011

Irn Bru League Division 1
Partick Thistle 2-2 Falkirk
Firhill Stadium, Glasgow

Attendance: 2,851

Prior to this match, I curiously checked out whether or not Partick Thistle were the closest Scottish League team to my house, geographically speaking. Turns out they are. It also turns out that getting there is extremely easy and takes me just over 30 minutes. So...it would be easy for me to fudge the scoring to ensure that next year, Ode to the Wee Red Book would be brought to you from Firhill Stadium, Glasgow. However, my moral fibre would never allow such shenanigans. Oh no. Partick Thistle will be judged just like the rest and they will like it!

That said, the walk up to the stadium was pretty easy - it'd be that way regardless of where you came from though. The first sight you get of the stadium features a pretty delapadated old floodlight (see first picture below) and the side of the now very old Main Stand which really does have something nice and traditional about it (see second picture below)

The Stadium (quirkiness and comfort) 7/10

For anyone looking to visit Firhill as an away fan, you'll be entering the stadium to the left of the Main Stand as you look at it while home fans...well....you'll certainly not be paying at the gate. Oh no...you'll be asked to undertake a simply ludicrous practice which involves purchasing a ticket from a small booth outstand the Jackie Husband Stand (the only one open to home fans on match day by the way) which you will then hand over on entry to the ground, with no ticket stub to retain.

A bit of a pointless exercise, but one which adds a quirk-factor to the experience. Could get a little irritating on a busy match day though and if you were pushed for time.

Anyway, on entering the stadium, I had a look around, as I do, before getting fired into the catering. To my right was the North Stand, which houses travelling supporters (picture 1). To my left was erm...a bank of grass (picture 2)....and opposite was the aforementioned Main Stand in all its glory (picture 3). The Jackie Husband stand I was in takes the form of a fairly bog-standard, modern, purpose built comfortable stand with all the necessary amenities.


Catering (quality and price) 7/10

Speaking of amenities....time for a pie and a tea! Purchasing both from a bunch of pleasant lads behind the counter, I was reasonably content with my £3.30 for the two...although my desire for it to be under £3 for the combination has not gone in Thistle's favour. Nonetheless, it was freezing. My tea was necessary.

What wasn't necessary was to spill the bloody thing all over my left hand, scalding myself and leaving me screaming like Louis Spence at a Chippendale's show. Lucky I had some change from my £5 and decided a bottle of water and plastic cup to soak my hand in was the best way forward.

Fans (scored on both atmosphere & conduct – sporting behaviour, welcoming nature etc) 22/25

Thankfully, the locals didn't think anything of it. Random interlopers with their hand buried in a plastic cup full of Volvic must be a regular thing at Firhill. Nonetheless, the fans were an impressive bunch and I enjoyed being amongst them.

The Thistle fans fall into the three categories of football fan that I enjoy seeing at a game. Too much weighting one way or another can ruin it for me but these guys just about had the balance right. The first type of fan is the desperately negative, “we're the shittest team out there and everyone needs to know it” man-fan. He sat in front of me. There's then the “we're great...I don't care what anyone says” fan, whose expectation levels are way above realistic. He sat to my right. Finally, there's the pragmatic old man, the guy who has been watching the same club for 40 years, has seen many a good player and many a shocking player come and go and who speaks with calm, reasoned authority. He sat behind me.

Overall, this made for an entertaining and pleasant experience. The former two gave me sufficient atmosphere. The latter gave me the rational, sporting and balanced view that makes being there a joy.

Kudos to the Thistle fans on this occasion.

Entertainment on the pitch (quite self explanatory) 19/25

In terms of the match, the first half was pretty poor. Thistle in particular seemed to lack any sort of penetration in the final third (outstanding cliché, don't you think?) while their visitors didn't offer a great deal more.

The second half came alive, though, and for Thistle it needed to. Trailing at half time, they came out all guns blazing and played some nice, aggressive and direct stuff. This positive forward play resulted in a superb equalising effort from David Rowson – a 20 yard screamer after some good build up play.

The game then went back and forth for the rest of the match, with both sides looking like they would add to their tallies. The away side then went 2-1 up with 5 minutes left thanks to a quite super free kick from Kallum Higginbotha...which I was delighted to capture on camera!

Thistle had one last effort in them though, and delighted the crowd with a Chris Erskine leveller 93 minutes in to ensure a share of the spoils. In truth, a better result for Thistle than Falkirk who, in reality, really should've seen the game out.,

Some home players worth a mention:

The man of the match for me does play for Thistle, but only temporarily. Kyle Hutton (on loan from Rangers) was absolutely superb in the centre of the park. His range of passing was of the highest quality, defensively he tracked back and helped out both his centre halves and full backs. Always the spare man, he kept Thistle ticking over and was inspirational in their second half comeback.

Other than Hutton, there weren't many stand outs for Thistle, although I do like the look of Stephen O'Donnell who played wide on the right on the day. The boy has a good touch, some excellent close control and importantly, retains possession when under pressure. I can't remember him misplacing many passes. Very decent lad.

Value for money (what you get for your buck) 24/30

For £17 I was actually quite pleased with what was on offer. The ground is quite weird, which is nice. The fans were fun to be around and the entertainment on the park wasn't bad at all. Even with a third degree burns, I managed to enjoy myself.

While Thistle may not have scored top spot in the wider scoring, they are certainly a strong contender for Best Supporter Experience. Anyone who hasn't been to Firhill before, I can...based on this evidence anyway........highly recommend it.

Overall Score for Partick Thistle: 79/100

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