Third Time Lucky
Partick Thistle… We have tried to get up to Firhill Stadium twice this season and twice we have failed.
The first time, Mrs Hopper became too ill, so we didn’t travel. The second time, we were thwarted by train strikes. I contacted the club through social media and asked if there was any chance of swapping my match tickets for a future game. I was delighted to receive a positive response and with our train tickets reimbursed, we wouldn’t be out of pocket this time.
I contacted them again a couple of weeks ago asking if it was still ok to change our tickets and if so, could we come to the Raith Rovers game. The answer was still yes and the arrangements were made to travel up.
Imagine my surprise when I received an email from one of the key figures behind the scenes at Firhill, a few days later. It asked if we would like to attend Firhill Stadium hospitality in the Alan Rough Lounge.
Ummm… yes, please!
This was news that made up for the two previous failures and then some.
So, with train tickets booked, we were really looking forward to today and it didn’t disappoint.
Partick Thistle – Journey and Pre-Game
The day began as Saturdays often do in our household, with a bus up to Newcastle. We caught the 07:05 and arrived approximately fifty minutes later before making our way to McDonald’s.
Here we ordered double bacon and egg McMuffins and a hash brown apiece before taking our seats and eating them in comfort. A good breakfast that would last us until we got to Firhill in the early afternoon.
We headed to the train station after eating and our train was due at 08:49. It arrived on time and we took our seats for the journey north. The sky was starting to turn blue and it looked like a sunny, yet chilly day awaited us.
We arrived in the Scottish capital at 10:20, giving us twenty-five minutes to stretch our legs.
The connecting train from Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen street duly arrived and we climbed aboard.
The trip between Edinburgh and Glasgow is an unremarkable one but one that goes pretty quickly. We arrived at Queen street at 11:35 before making our way through the omnipresent ticket barriers there.
Once out of the station, we went down Anchor Lane before turning right and heading down St. Vincent Street. Once we reached the junction with Hope street, we crossed over and turned right, coming to the bus stop. From here we could catch several different buses that would take us into the Maryhill district of Glasgow.
About five minutes later, the 60A bus arrived and we got on board.
We got off the bus at Bonawe Street at 12:05 and it was just a couple of minute’s walk from there to Firhill Stadium.
Partick Thistle – Firhill Stadium Exterior
Starting at the right-hand side of the Colin Weir Stand ahead of us, we completed a circuit of the stadium’s exterior.
There are some old turnstile entrances on the corner, between the Colin Weir Stand and McParland Street. Their antiquated look is completed by the prices remaining written in white paint above the doors.
I’m not sure which year these were last updated but it states that O.A.P’s and Boys (no mention of girls) can enter for £2.00 and £3.00 respectively. The look is somewhat dampened by the addition of a plastic board with a QR code on it.
I love old stuff like that!
McParland Way Mural
Named after club legend, Davie McParland, this lane leads up and around the back of the stadium.
On the wall is a superb mural that runs the length of the road and it features Davie himself and some Partick Thistle related art. Unfortunately, a couple of cars had pulled up just before we got there, so I couldn’t get a clear photo of the whole thing. I did manage to get one on the way back down after the match but the lighting wasn’t as good.
Again, superb stuff for fans like me, who love a bit of character and uniqueness around a stadium.
At the top of McParland Way, we went through some open gates and found ourselves on the corner of the Jackie Husband Stand.
This gave us our first good view of inside the stadium and I was able to put my camera through the gates for a photo. That was when a kindly steward came along and asked if I wanted to come through the gates and take a couple of snaps.
Once that was done, I thanked our helpful steward and we carried on behind the Jackie Husband Stand.
Behind this stand, the Forth and Clyde Canal loops around the stadium and on towards the city centre. It is known at this point as the Firhill Basin, which is a larger section fed from the canal. There were people fishing here and a lone swan swam around behind the John Lambie Stand.
There is nothing remarkable about the exterior of the Jackie Husband Stand, other than the entrance to the hospitality suites and a separate ticket office. The ticket office is actually a hut, similar to an old portacabin. I’m not sure if it was built during the Rolling Stones musical era but it was definitely old and Painted Black.
Walking on around we came to the corner between the two stands on this side of the ground and this afforded us another nice view inside. I’m sure this will be a popular spot with kids who can’t afford to go in and watch the game as it lets you see most of the field of play.
There is nothing to see behind the John Lambie Stand due to a large complex of student apartments rising high behind it. The Firhill Court, as the complex is called, might give some of the lucky occupants a free season ticket view of at least half of the pitch.
After walking past the apartments, the path brought us full circle back to the Colin Weir Stand.
The facade of this stand is of bricks and mortar, with the top half pebble-dashed and painted white. There is an official entrance door for players and officials under the Partick Thistle sign in the middle.
The Partick Thistle club shop is located to the right of the official entrance on this side of the ground.
Partick Thistle – Firhill Stadium Exterior Gallery
Partick Thistle Hospitality
With a circuit of the exterior done and the clock ticking towards the 12:45 start time for hospitality, we made our way to the reception area.
On the wall by the reception door is an area of named bricks, presumably bought by Jags fans and relatives of deceased supporters.
Some of them seem to not be faring too well and it’s hard to tell if this is due to wear and tear or deliberate damage. The reason I suspect the latter, is that some of the bricks remain almost as new, while others are completely illegible.
The Alan Rough Lounge
We had been gifted access to the Alan Rough Lounge, named after the legendary Thistle, Hibernian and Scotland National Team goalkeeper of the 1970s and ’80s.
We gave our names to the receptionist and were given directions to head upstairs. A hall of fame photo gallery adorns the walls up to the hospitality area. It features many of the Partick heroes of the past and maybe some of today’s players will end up on there too.
At the top of the stairs, we turned right and saw a big clue on the wall that we were in the right place…
We had arrived slightly early but nobody seemed to mind and we allocated to table sixteen.
I asked if Brian Welsh was around and he just happened to be walking past at the same time. I introduced myself with a handshake and thanked Brian for giving us this amazing opportunity to sample Thistle’s hospitality. He seemed a genuinely nice guy and he turned out to be very good at his job, too.
He is the host for the guests in the hospitality lounge and introduces the guest speakers and generally keeps guests entertained. It isn’t at all stuffy or ‘posh’ and we genuinely had a great day and Brian was a key part of that enjoyment.
It probably helps that he is a lifelong Jags fan with a tattoo to prove it.
We were sitting at a table with six other guests and they proved to be very good company, too. There were a couple of Raith Rovers fans and their wives and a Thistle fan with his father-in-law.
We had some great conversations with all of them about both clubs and if they get to read this at some point, I would like to thank them for their good company.
Food and Drink
As you would expect, food and drink are included in the package and we were treated to some lovely food.
Balmoral chicken (chicken stuffed with haggis), with swede, creamy mash and a nice Glava sauce.
The dessert was a double chocolate brownie with banoffee parfait.
A few beers ‘may’ have been consumed during this time, too…
While we were eating, Brian gave a great welcoming speech that just happened to be delivered in rhyme. Unfortunately, I missed the start of it but this video gives you the gist.
Partick Thistle Manager
This was followed by an interview with new Partick Thistle manager and club legend, Kris Doolan.
Kris has only recently retired from playing (2021) and last played for Arbroath. It is Thistle that he spent most of his career with, though. He played 332 times for the Jags, scoring 105 goals in the process.
He was appointed full-time manager of the club this past week, following three successful games in a caretaker role.
There was also an interview with two of the Thistle women’s team but I didn’t catch any of this on film because I was tucking into my tasty chicken before it went cold! Although, this did produce the quote of the day that I will mention later on.
After our food was eaten and cleared away, another club legend came to the microphone and proved to be quite entertaining.
I can definitely see that ‘Evening with Dennis McQuade‘ happening at some stage, Brian!
Kick-off was now approaching and it was time to enter the stadium for the match after a thoroughly entertaining build-up.
Partick Thistle – Firhill Stadium Interior
Jackie Husband Stand
Our (cushioned!) seats were located in the Jackie Husband Stand and we went through a door straight into the seating area.
As ever, the stand in which we sit is the most difficult to photograph. It is the largest of the three stands at Firhill, with a capacity of 6,263. It is a single-tier stand that runs the length of the pitch and is roofed all along.
John Lambie Stand
The John Lambie Stand is the place where the more vocal Thistle fans tend to congregate.
It is another roofed, single-tier structure with a capacity of 2,014. Partick Thistle flags adorn the wall to the rear of the seating.
Colin Weir Stand
The Colin Weir Stand is technically the main stand at Firhill.
It is a single-tiered structure with a unique feature, as the players’ tunnel is located at one end of the stand in a building that houses the dressing rooms, too. It is used by away fans if they have a larger following than 500 – otherwise, they are housed in the north end of the Jackie Husband Stand.
It has a reduced capacity of 1,825 these days but is predominantly unused on matchday, to help reduce the costs of policing and stewarding.
The stand has supporting pillars which may obstruct your view of some areas of the pitch.
It is named after a Thistle supporter who won over one hundred and sixty million pounds on the Euromillions Lottery. He used some of his winnings to make a significant contribution to the club and eventually, became the owner. Colin sadly passed away in 2020.
You can read some of Colin’s story here.
South End of Firhill
The south end of the stadium has no capacity for supporters and consists of a grassy bank with scaffolding perched atop it. Advertising sheets cover the facing side of the scaffolding.
This end used to be an open terrace and was demolished amid plans to build a new stand. The stand hasn’t yet materialised, however, and unless Thistle gets promoted back to the SPL, it may remain that way.
Firhill has a natural grass playing surface, four lovely floodlights (one in each corner of the ground) and a total capacity of 10,102.
Partick Thistle – Stadium Gallery
Partick Thistle – Pre-Game View of Firhill Stadium
Partick Thistle v Raith Rovers – The Game
Coming into this game, both teams were in great form. Raith Rovers were on an unbeaten in all-competitions streak of fourteen games. Their last defeat came on December 3rd 2022 at Ayr United.
The only downside to that incredible run is that a good number of those games were drawn. In the last four league fixtures, Rovers had won one and drawn three, with the win coming at Gayfield, home of Arbroath. There was also an impressive 3-1 win against Motherwell in the Scottish Cup tucked into those last four league games.
They have also completed a remarkable hattrick of finals in the SPFL Trust competition. They saw off Dundee to reach their third consecutive final, having won the last two. The final will be against Hamilton Academical on the 26th of March at the Falkirk Stadium.
Today’s hosts meanwhile, have also steadied the ship and returned to good form under Kris Doolan.
Since taking over as caretaker manager after Thistle’s plucky 3-2 defeat at Rangers in the Scottish Cup, Doolan’s Thistle is unbeaten. They have pulled off two impressive away wins against Ayr United and Dundee, whilst drawing at Arbroath.
Today would mark his first home game in charge of the Jags.
Players Enter the Field
Ok, I can’t go any further without mentioning the wonderful Thistle mascot, Kingsley.
He looks like a cross between the angry Scottish branch of the Simpson family and a child’s drawing of the sun. Dressed in all yellow and clad in a plaid yellow and black kilt, he is a central feature of the Firhill scene.
So much so, in fact, that the Jags brought out a special Kingsley Thistle kit this season. Long since sold out, I’m sure this will be a shirt people try to get their hands on for some time to come.
I want one!
Kingsley walked onto the pitch with players and mascots and definitely draws your eye. At one stage I saw him at the bottom of the stand, half hugging and half rear-naked-choking a young kid before throwing his hat away.
Unfortunately, Partick Thistle is not currently producing programmes but I did manage to get hold of a teamsheet.
After an even but uneventful opening ten minutes, things started to liven up a little.
Rovers’ Aidan Connolly had a goal chalked off for offside in the tenth minute before they went close again.
Raith’s Connor McBride may have done better shooting and will wish he could have this chance back again. After getting clear of Aaron Muirhead on the right flank, he raced into the box and it seemed certain he would get his shot away.
Inexplicably, he tried to square the ball, despite three defenders and only one Rovers player in the area and the chance was gone.
Thistle had a penalty claim turned down minutes later. From my vantage point, it did look like there may have been a push in the back of Scott Tiffoney as he started to clear the last defender. At best, it was a clumsy challenge from Rovers’ captain, Tom Lang.
Referee, Greg Aitken was having none of it though and waved away protests from players and supporters alike.
Raith Rovers got their second disallowed goal on the board a few minutes later.
Again struck off for offside and they will be rueing the lack of awareness from the frontmen. If those goals had stood, we could have been looking at an entirely different game.
This was probably as good as it got for Rovers today though and Thistle slowly started to get a stranglehold on the game.
Harry Milne put in a dangerous cross from the left and as it drifted across the six-yard box, it went out of play before Brian Graham could reach it at the back post.
Thistle captain, Ross Docherty, was shown yellow on twenty minutes for cynically preventing a Rovers counter-attack.
Taking one for the team there.
Thistle Take Control
At this stage, while not too much was happening in the way of chances, the Jags did start to exert a little more dominance. They upped their rate of possession and showed some neat passing.
This was very evident in the build-up play as Thistle took the lead in the 39th minute.
It started on the left, with Milne just able to keep the ball in play before playing it to Tiffoney. He laid it off to Scott Bannigan in the centre, who immediately switched it to the right flank. Some neat passing on the right-hand side of the area eventually ended with Kyle Turner putting in a teasing cross.
His left-footed cross evaded everyone before Tiffoney arrived at the back post to gleefully nod home from close range.
1-0 Partick Thistle!
It was the last meaningful action of a half that had been high on endeavour but little in the way of clear-cut chances. By the end, though, Thistle had probably just about deserved their halftime lead.
Half-time – Partick Thistle 1 v Raith Rovers 0
At the halftime whistle, we made our way back up the steps and into the Alan Rough Lounge.
A pie and coffee awaited us on the table and despite not long ago eating a lovely dinner, this went down well. After all, what is football without a halftime pie?
This has to be the quickest halftime break I have ever known and we were amazed when Brian announced that the second half was about to resume. Sure enough, as we took our seats the game was already underway.
Where did that time go?
The Second Half
The second period started with a booking for Rovers’ Ross Millen for pulling the shirt of Milne in the 48th minute.
Two minutes later, Brian Graham had a good-looking shot pushed wide for a corner. In the 53rd minute, Graham had his revenge.
Some more good passing resulted in a lovely team goal and Thistle’s second of the day.
An attempted Rovers’ clearance only resulted in Thistle possession. After starting by going back to the halfway line, the ball was moved out to the left side, with Tiffoney again a key figure. He played the ball neatly inside the Rovers area for Milne to race onto.
Milne put the ball low across the goal where Graham created space from his marker at the back post before lunging to get the ball in the net.
2-0 Partick Thistle!
Graham was also the subject of the quote of the day during hospitality.
While Brian Welsh was interviewing the two members of the Thistle women’s team, one of them (I will keep her anonymous here!) was asked what she thought of their manager, Brian Graham. (A busy man by the way!)
He’s a bit of a dick. – Anon.
Not quite the response Mr Graham would have probably been hoping for but it made for an amusing quote, nonetheless.
Thistle were looking dominant now and their neat passing was having an effect on the usually stubborn Raith defence. They compounded that dominance with a third goal in the 63rd minute.
If the first two goals were down to great teamwork, this one was down to individual determination and a cool finish.
Steven Lawless somehow managed to retain the ball despite having to come through two Rovers’ players to do so. Once he broke free of their attention, he headed straight toward the centre of the pitch. About twenty-five yards away from goal, he slipped a delightful pass in front of Tiffoney. Tiffoney kept his composure well and tucked the ball past the onrushing Jamie McDonald with the outside of his right foot.
3-0 Partick Thistle!
Game, set and match Partick Thistle!
Double goal-scorer and man of the match, Tiffoney, was given a well-earned rest in the 76th minute and went off to good applause.
Thistle sat back on their lead and allowed Rovers more of the ball in the last twenty minutes or so. They defended well though and the Kirkcaldy men had few chances to get near Thistle’s goal.
Coming into this game, Thistle were forced into one change from the team that had done so well previously. Goalkeeper Jamie Sneddon had been given injections in his groin and was replaced in the starting line-up by David Mitchell.
It was in the final few minutes that Mitchell staked his place for more minutes in this team.
His first big moment came in the 82nd minute. Some good play from Raith Rovers saw the ball end at the feet of Sam Stanton on the edge of the box. He cut inside a defender before unleashing a shot that seemed destined for the net. Mitchell got down well and put a strong hand behind the ball, diverting it for a corner.
Good save but Stanton will probably think he should have scored.
However, Mitchell’s best moment was reserved for the 89th minute.
Rovers were awarded a questionable penalty and the chance for a consolation goal. Lewis Vaughan stepped up to take the spot kick and struck it well. It was at a nice height for a keeper though and Mitchell guessed the right way and flung himself to his right to keep the ball out. He got quickly to his feet and rushed out to block Liam Dick’s follow-up shot.
Thistle fans and players alike celebrated it like a goal and it was clear that this clean sheet meant a lot to the club.
With time up, the referee blew his whistle to end a good game of football. Both teams played some good football at times but Thistle thoroughly deserved the three points and Kris Doolan will be thinking this manager’s lark is pretty easy right now!
You can read a full Match Report here. The link is from the Partick Thistle website.
Full-time – Partick Thistle 3 v Raith Rovers 0
Attendance – 3,302
Entrance Fee – £20.00 (Digital ticket) – Deferred to hospitality (Thanks again, Brian!)
Programme – N/A (Teamsheet only)
Partick Thistle – Match Highlights
Next up for Thistle is a big away trip just down the River Clyde at Greenock Morton on the 11th of March. Cappielow Park is just twenty miles from Firhill Stadium and I’m sure this game will attract a decent-sized crowd with both teams hoping to reach the playoffs.
This will be followed up by another huge game at home to fellow hopefuls, Dundee on the 18th.
For Raith Rovers, they have a huge Scottish Cup game at Ibrox Stadium to look forward to (or dread) on Sunday 12th of March. They then face struggling Cove Rangers at the San Starko before heading up to the Falkirk stadium the following weekend.
They will be aiming to complete a stunning consecutive hattrick of SPFL Trust Final victories by beating Hamilton Accies.
While being in hospitality is lovely, it doesn’t always give you a true picture of what the ground experience is like. That is why I was determined to make this visit as much like any other ground we visit wherever possible.
Firhill Stadium is a superb place to watch football and I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been. It is a friendly place and unlike some Scottish grounds we have been to, the supporters really did feel like they were behind their team from the first minute to the last.
The usual catcalling and shouting at certain players was not in evidence here. Maybe that’s due to the recent run of good form, I’m not sure but it was a welcome thing and I’m sure the players appreciate it when they get full backing.
Kingsley is a truly unique mascot and so is Partick Thistle. I think I can safely add Firhill Stadium to the list of my favourite Scottish grounds so far. I should add that today’s opponent, Raith Rovers, is another club and stadium on that list.
Both are fabulous places to watch football.
Partick Thistle – After the Game
Following the game, we trooped back into the Alan Rough Lounge, where more drinks and speeches awaited us.
I could get used to this!
Prior to kick-off, we had filled in little cards where we could predict the day’s attendance. I went with 3,287 and when I heard the figure announced as 3,302, at fifteen out, I felt pretty confident.
Someone had gone with 3,307! Just five away from being spot on.
Well played, sir! (Grrrr!!)
We then had a further interview with Thistle captain Ross Docherty and the sponsors’ man of the match, Scott Tiffoney.
If this all sounds like a great day to you (it really is!) then you can book yourself into this hospitality package from the following link.
The Alan Rough Lounge closes at 18:00 on matchday but with us needing to get to Glasgow Queen Street, we left at around 17:45 in order to catch our bus.
After catching up with Brian Welsh and again thanking him for this superb day out, we left Firhill Stadium behind us and walked back to Bonawe Street. As we went down McParland Way, I took another photo of the mural with no cars in the way.
We caught the number 61 bus back into Glasgow city centre and walked the short distance from drop-off to the station.
Our 18:45 train to Edinburgh pulled in on time and the journey home began in earnest. Not that we saw much of it. With a few Jack Daniels and beers in our recent past, it wasn’t long before we were snoozing our way cross country.
We pulled into Edinburgh Waverley at 19:30 and our 20:00 train to Newcastle was already on platform six, waiting. We climbed aboard and pulled out of the station on time.
We arrived back in Newcastle at 21:35 and made our way to the bus stop, wading through the partying folk of the Toon. We also narrowly avoided wading through one of the partying folks’ last meal, too but enough of that detail…
We caught our bus home just after 22:00 and were joined by two ladies who had clearly had a disagreement. After much shouting at each other downstairs, one of them came and sat upstairs behind us.
After relating the tale of the disagreement to another friend on her phone, oh joy! her friend came up and sat beside her to continue the yelling match.
They did eventually simmer down and we arrived home at around 10:50.
Another eventful day of football in the books!
Next Up For Hoppers Guide
Next week, we will be returning to Scotland for our twenty-third SPFL ground – Stenhousemuir‘s Ochilview Stadium.
This is another ground we have tried to get to before and have been thwarted by train strikes, so hopefully, this time things will go more smoothly.
Onto the next!
4 thoughts on “Partick Thistle, Firhill Stadium – Hopper Tales #61”
Disappointing day for us, think their heads and hearts were looking towards the quarter final. Great report, well written and very informative. Sounds like you had a great experience in hospitality
Yes, it wasn’t a great performance from Rovers but that’s football. We love it in spite of the ups and downs we go through as supporters. Thistle hospitality is wonderful. Highly recommended from me
Glad you enjoyed your day. It is clubs like Thistle that develop a real connection with their supporters and help make the match day atmosphere so good. FIirhill, Starks and similar grounds are great to watch a game. East End park is another great ground (shame about the team lol)
Disappointing result from a Raith perspective but having seen Thistle a couple of times this season it was obvious they could be a dangerous side with the right management.
Onwards and upwards (but maybe not on Sunday against Sevco at Castle Greyskull)
Thistle seems like a great community club Iain and someone has pointed out to me that they let U16s in free. What a great way of making lifelong supporters for the future.
Good luck next week mate