1894-95 Flirting with re-election

 

  • Yet another win over Rangers
  • Conflict with the Glasgow Football Association
  • Violence flares in Ayrshire
  • Re-election narrowly avoided

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In 1893 club secretary Andrew Smith had attempted to resign his position, but felt obliged to stay on when no replacement for the position was forthcoming. June 1894 saw him again try to relinquish the position he had held with distinction for ten years. With Donald McIntyre of Rosevale Street willing to take over as secretary, the way was clear for Smith to be elected the new President of the club. Baillie Wright was also proposed for the Presidency, but declined to stand against Andrew Smith.

It was revealed that the club had a debt of £16 10s carried over from the previous season. The annual meeting also agreed to hold future meetings in unlicensed premises, not public houses. It was felt that potential members had been put off joining the club.

The business of putting a team on the pitch also took up time during the summer. Half-back John Harvey, a mainstay of the team in the second part of the previous season, had been tempted by Derby County, while goalkeeper Crozier had decided on Woolwich Arsenal rather than Newton Heath, and also moved south. Right-back Hope Robertson and halfback Archie Freebairn (Bolton) had also moved on to English clubs. Pat Smith, a replacement for Crozier, was signed from Duntocher Harp, John Campbell, a forward, came from Linthouse, half-back Devine arrived from Renton, while a number of players from junior clubs, including Pat Gray (from Govan Hibs) and John Wilkie (Summerton Athletic), were new faces at Inchview. The committee was unconcerned as they felt the new arrivals were the equal of the players who had left. There was no doubt that the Thistle team was inexperienced though.

A full season’s worth of fixtures was announced. Perhaps awareness of the club’s recent record in the Scottish Cup, secretary McIntyre had arranged a league match for the same date as the 1st round proper of the Scottish Cup.

Partick Thistle v Dundee WanderersThe first game of the season saw a Dundee club visit Inchview for the first time. Dundee Wanderers had been introduced to the Second Division to widen the appeal of the competition, which was limited to the central belt. The Thistle team had only four players from last season – D.Bruce, W.Freebairn, W.Proudfoot, and Murray. However, the new faces played well and Thistle won the game 5-2. It was Murray’s only league appearance of the season and he joined Nottingham Forest in October.

Hibernian were Second Division winners the previous season, but automatic promotion was a thing of the future. The top three clubs were invited to apply for membership of the First Division, and Clyde were the preferred choice of the voting clubs despite finishing third in the division. Hibernian were still seen as a club for Irishmen, and the League an organisation for Scotsmen (although Celtic handily were assimilated quickly due to their huge pull and ability to generate revenue for the other member clubs). With this resentment, and their ability to beat Morton 9-0 on the opening day of the season, and follow that with a win over Rangers, a visit to Edinburgh to play Hibernian was never going to be easy. Indeed, the home side beat Thistle 5-1 to go top of the table.

The first qualifying round of the Scottish Cup saw Royal Albert drawn at Inchview. Albert were leading the Alliance league, and the contest was set up as a challenge to the Second Division. The visitors scored within two minutes of the start, but any shock was ruled out as Thistle took control and won easily 6-1.  The Scottish Sport was impressed: “Partick Thistle players, though light, are as lively as kittens”.

Following the visit to league leaders Hibernian, the next League game was a visit to second placed Port Glasgow Athletic. A healthy rivalry had built up as Thistle and Athletic had been paired regularly in League and cup competitions. Although Willie Paul scored twice and the travelling Thistle supporters made themselves heard, the home side won 6-2.

Cambuslang had been founder members of the Scottish League, but had found times hard since losing their place in the League. They were Thistle’s opponents in the Glasgow Cup first round. Thanks to a first half performance from defence Campbell, Hendry and Smith Thistle were 3-1 up at half-time, and held that score till the end despite losing Campbell to injury at half-time.

A trip to Ayrshire, and the unknown, was next in the Scottish Cup. Paired with Annbank, Thistle survived a difficult journey only to lose 3-0 to the home team, though it was felt that if the players had not been affected by the journey they might have won the tie. To top the day, Thistle were chased out of town by a stone-throwing mob.

At the start of October the Sheffield Daily Telegraph contained a peculiar match report for a game between Saville and Partick Thistle at the Old Forge in the Sheffield and District Combination. It was the final of the competition and Thistle won 3-0. It can only be assumed that it was a reserve team that played, since the first team were drawing 4-4 with Morton at Inchview that day. Why a Thistle team was playing in a Sheffield competition is unknown.

Although the goalkeeper and full backs were playing well, they were let down by inconsistent play from their half backs. The next few weeks saw friendlies played and goals conceded to Morton (4-4), Dykebar (4-4), Ayr (3-2) and Renton (4-1), although the goals scored helped to allay the disappointment. The game against Dykebar was hastily arranged after a Glasgow Cup tie against Pollokshaws was cancelled – Pollokshaws being under SFA suspension at the time. This meant that Thistle went through to the Glasgow Cup semis to play Rangers at Inchview.

The newspapers and the majority of the Glasgow FA were in no doubt of the result they wanted – Celtic awaited the winners in the final and the Glasgow FA could no doubt see another bumper payday. It appeared that the First Division side only had to turn up at Whiteinch to win. However, Rangers had never beaten Thistle, in the eleven games played at Inchview, while Thistle had also won eight of the last seventeen games between the clubs.

Partick Thistle v RangersThistle felt confident, while Rangers were over-confident. The Thistle defence strengthened itself and was outstanding, while the forwards were splendid. Wilkie scored a goal, while at the other end Pat Smith saved six good chances. The first half was even, but in the second Rangers became stronger, and an equaliser was controversially disallowed for handball. Thistle held on for a win that was popular perhaps only in Partick. The crowd was the biggest of the season to date, drawing a gate of £120.

To the relief of all but those from Partick, Rangers lodged an appeal with the Glasgow FA, citing the fact that Pat Smith had played a five-a-side tournament for his old club Duntocher Harp after he signed for Thistle, though it was felt that this was only a handy cover for their annoyance at the referee’s decision to disallow their goal – Rangers would not have worried about Smith’s registration if they had won. The Glasgow FA upheld the protest to Thistle’s disappointment, and initially Thistle refused to replay the game.

Eventually the game was replayed at Inchview, and Rangers showed a better attitude, wining 5-3 to record their first win at Inchview, pleasing themselves, Celtic, the press and the Glasgow FA. Thistle subsequently took their appeal to the SFA monthly meeting, where the national association refused to hear the appeal. The next step was to threaten to take the case to the law courts. Eventually they accepted the decision and defeat, but the way they handled the protest and challenged the Glasgow FA hadn’t won them any friends. The Thistle fans, though disappointed, took the result in good spirits, many suggesting that the Rangers’ committee might not be welcome in Duntocher for some time.

The frustration of the Glasgow Cup defeat had its positive side. Estimates put Thistle’s income from the two games at £180, while the replayed game saw Ferguson, a right full back, make his debut. He was to make the position his own for the remainder of the season, after seven other players had played in the position since the start of the season.

League form, too, was improving. Wins over Motherwell (5-3), Cowlairs (4-3) and Airdrieonians (3-2) took Thistle to 5th place in the table at the turn of the year, having won four, lost three and drawn one. A defeat at Cappielow against Morton (2-4) and a draw with Abercorn (4-4) made up the results sheet for the period.  The Abercorn draw was later annulled, and the referee struck off the referee’s list due to incompetence.

Thistle travelled north with a mixture of first team players and reserves for their now-customary New Year tour, and had games against Aberdeen and Victoria United organised. The weather played havoc with football. At Chanonry against Aberdeen the pitch was covered in several inches of snow. The Thistle forwards tried to play their usual short-passing game, but they came unstuck and the game ended in a 4-1 win for Aberdeen. The following day a much stronger Thistle beat Victoria United 4-1.

inverness-1895Following the visit to Aberdeen the players continued north to Inverness. There the local Thistle club had been advertising “The Match of the Season” since October and had been anticipating the game with excitement. A couple of weeks before the game rivals Clachnacuddin announced that they would play Partick Thistle too, on Hogmanay. The Thistle club were furious and accused their rivals of opportunism. Clach in response pointed out that Thistle had arranged their game in direct opposition to the Clach v Port Glasgow game on New Year’s Day. No score was reported for the Clachnacuddin game, and a 1-2 defeat was recorded against Inverness Thistle.

Back home the weather was little better, with games being postponed regularly through January and February. A 4-2 league win over Cowlairs, and then a 3-3 away draw and a 5-1 home win, both against Abercorn (the latter being a replay of the annulled game) took Thistle to second place in the league, six points behind Hibernian, but having played more games than many of their rivals.  Goalkeeper Pat Smith and forward John Proudfoot were both in top form.

The lack of games was crippling for some clubs who now were relying on gate money to pay the rising number of professional players. The away game at Underwood Park against Abercorn saw just £6 taken at the gate. Scottish Sport mused on how many Division Two clubs might be forced to go back to full amateur status.

The return fixture against Dundee Wanderers took place at Dock Street, and concern was raised over the state of the pitch. For whatever reason, Thistle were quickly 1-4 down before coming back to lead 5-4. Thistle’s goals came from the right wing, where Proudfoot and Freebairn were busy, Willie Paul keeping them supplied with the ball. Two late goals for Wanderers ended what was described as the most remarkable game ever witnessed at Dock Street, the home team winning 6-5.  Thistle protested about the condition of the pitch – “… more like a coal bing …” but the protest was rejected.

Willie PaulJohn Proudfoot had, it was reported, replaced William Freebairn as the “pet” of the Partick Thistle supporters, and warned that a “poacher” was already on his trail for next season, reference to the agents who would be in Scotland, acting on behalf of English clubs. Willie Paul (right) was to receive a wedding gift from his friends and admirers. The veteran centre forward was also to receive a testimonial match. Paul made his debut for Thistle in 1884 and had remained an amateur for that time.

Renton were next opponents at Inchview, and were also freshly qualified finalists in the Scottish Cup. Though Smith and Paul were on form, as were the halfback trio R.Campbell, D.Bruce and McDonald, Thistle were beaten for the first time at home in a league match. This was followed by the traditional close-of-season league slump. A 0-9 away defeat by Airdrieonians, followed by a 0-3 defeat from Motherwell and a 0-4 home loss by Hibernian saw Thistle slump dangerously to seventh place.

Thankfully, Willie Paul returned from his break after his wedding, and helped the team to a 6-0 win over Neilston before the final run of league games. Two games remained, and Thistle were in danger of finishing in the bottom three and having to apply for re-election. The return fixture against Renton, now the beaten Cup finalists (losing to old Alliance opponents St Bernards), was delayed because Renton preferred to play a friendly against Queen’s Park. When the game was played it was a successful one, Thistle returning from the country with a 3-1 win. The final League game was against Port Glasgow, who had scored six against Thistle earlier in the season. A 5-0 win kept Thistle out of the bottom three by one point.

Final league table.

W L D F A Pts
Hibernian 14 2 2 92 28 30
Motherwell 10 6 2 56 39 22
Port Glasgow Athletic 8 6 4 62 56 20
Renton 10 7 0 46 44 20
Morton 9 8 1 59 63 19
Airdrieonians 8 8 2 68 45 18
Partick Thistle 8 8 2 51 59 18
Abercorn 7 8 3 48 66 17
Dundee Wanderers 3 13 1 44 86 9
Cowlairs 2 13 3 37 77 7

* Dundee Wanderers and Renton played each other once. Dundee were awarded two points when Renton failed to turn up for the return fixture.

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