Friday 5th May, 2017 at 9:05am
Season 1976/77 was Thistle’s first in the Premier League and they raised a few eyebrows by ending in 5th place in what was at that time a 10 club league. What is also remarkable is the fact that not only did we win the featured match, but later on in the season we did it again, with the score being 4-3 this time. O.K. we lost twice at Ibrox, but we’ll not delve into the detail of that.
Things looked ominous when Rangers opened the scoring after 56 minutes, courtesy of a certain Kenny Watson. We had, of course, no idea then that he would later become, arguably, Thistle’s best player of the 1980’s. Thistle trailed for 19 minutes until the ever-reliable Dougie Somner popped up with the equaliser. We were in command now and Brian Whittaker scored the winner in the 89th minute – a last-gasp winner against Rangers – this is what Thistle fans’ dreams are made of. I must pause here and put things into perspective. Even although Brian moved on to play for other clubs, we were all deeply saddened by his tragic death as a result of a car accident. I was honoured to represent the Club at Brian’s funeral at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh.
The Thistle team on 30th October 1976(can it really be more than 40 years ago?) was as follows:- Alan Rough, John Hansen, Brian Whittaker, Jackie Campbell, Alan Hansen, Andy Anderson, Sandy Frame, Dougie Somner, John Marr, John Craig, Harry Johnston. One has to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Hansen brothers. John was a real stalwart with 317 first-team appearances to his name. Alan played only 123 matches for Thistle, but he was a really classy performer who stole the limelight with his move to Liverpool and subsequent appearances on “Match of the Day”. Being as I am, I used to panic every time Alan insisted on playing football right from the six-yard area out. Clear your lines, I would mutter.
Two names in the team line-up are fairly unfamiliar, those of Sandy Frame and Harry Johnstone. Sandy was a powerful, direct front player, whose career was blighted and finally ruined by injury. Harry joined us from Montrose, a cultured left-sided player, whose opportunities were few and his impact therefore limited. He was an accomplished cricketer.
Reference is made inside the programme to the recent publication of Ian Archer’s book “the Jags” highlighting Thistle’s centenary. The review of the book is along familiar lines, suggesting that the Jags inspire gentle affection – a bit of the old cuddly toy there, and suggesting that Firhill is a place for the thinking man. I couldn’t agree more, but in these days of rampant political correctness, Firhill had better be a place for the thinking person, I guess.