1899-1900 – Second Division Champions
- New committee bring success back to Meadowside
- Old favourites return from England
- Promotion back to the First Division clinched
After a short close season that saw Partick Thistle relegated to the Second Division in favour of Kilmarnock, focus returned to Meadowside along with hopes that the new match committee had been able to build a new team capable of restoring pride among members and supporters and capable of challenging for re-election back to the top league.
Following the re-signing of old favourite William Freebairn at the end of the previous season the match committee had been busy and had brought back a number of other popular Thistle players. David Proudfoot had left the club in 1896 to join Leicester Fosse at a time when Thistle needed funds to build the ground at Meadowside and then had joined Bedminster while William McDonald was also with Bedminster having left Meadowside in 1898. Both players arrived back from Bedminster to bolster the half back line.
William Goudie and David McDougall were on the books at Ibrox but had been unable to make an impact on the first team. Thistle secured their services for the season: both were regarded as “real captures” by the Sport.
Tom Scott, the Irish goalkeeper who had played a few games for Thistle the previous season, was reinstated as an amateur returned to Ireland to rejoin Cliftonville while Robert Currie, who had been suspended by the club, also regained his amateur status away from Meadowside. Half back Dickie Richmond had returned to Dumbarton, while right-back James Auchencloss had refused the terms offered and had been placed on the transfer list. Fred McDiarmid had returned to Dundee as the new club rebuilt itself. Barnsley announced the signing of ex Partick Thistle player Foulds, though the records don’t record a player of that name at Meadowside. However, perhaps the biggest loss to the team would be Robert Gray, the inside left who was almost ever-present the previous season. Gray had joined Everton.
At the Partick Police Sports day at Meadowside before the start of the season Thistle beat Linthouse and then Clyde in final of the five-a-side tournament. The successful team was Proudfoot, Goudie, McDougall, Freebairn and McNicoll.
The Evening Times previewed the season ahead for the club:
The first game to be played was a friendly against Clyde but a week before the game it was announced that Clyde Football Company would go into liquidation before the start of the season.
Somehow the Clyde players formed a team to play against Thistle without Clyde existing as a football club and the scratch team won a remarkable 4-3 victory over a strong Thistle team. “The Partick Thistle team is a powerful one, composed of finely-built men, the majority having youth to aid them. Paul led his new comrades with judgement, divided the work with wisdom, and gave everyone the chance to distinguish himself,” reported the Sport.
The team included all the new signings and some new additions. Archie McDonald was a goalkeeper signed from Ayr, while David Campbell was on trial from Whiteinch juniors.
Soon after the game the Clyde Football and Athletic Club Ltd was quickly formed. The ground and players were purchased from the liquidators for between £300 and £400 and the new Clyde club were able to take the place of the old one in time for their first match in the First Division on 19 August.
The first matches in the Second Division were played on the same day and that meant a trip to Motherwell for the Thistle players. At kick-off time the Thistle players were on the pitch ready to start but five home players were late arriving and the start was delayed. Walter Collier and William Freebairn combined well on the right and Thistle lasted the game better, never behind after George McNicoll opened the scoring. The final score was 3-1 to Thistle. “From the determined play of Partick Thistle they mean to win the league,” commented the Sport.
Goudie and McDougall were especially keen for the next game – a friendly against Rangers at Meadowside. Rangers had scored 23 times against Thistle in the previous season and were undoubtedly the superior team, but old-time Thistle supporters still remembered the times when the clubs were equals, and hankered after that time. Thistle were unlucky in the second half, but showed unexpected resolve to score twice in the second half to draw 2-2.
The first home league game brought a surprise to the home fans as Robert Currie, banished to East Stirlingshire after being suspended back in February, appeared in the Thistle team. Currie was now an amateur and heeded the call from Meadowside when Walter Collier missed his train from Kirkcaldy to Partick. Proudfoot moved to the forward line and Currie stepped into his old half back role. The crowd (and gate of £63) was disappointing, showing that the public needed more convincing that the poor play of the previous season was a thing of the past. The versatile David Proudfoot scored an early goal but Morton came back strongly and Archie McDonald played well to hold Thistle’s lead . “He is a big fellow with a long reach and a length of leg that could drive the ball almost into the Clyde,” is how the Sport described the Thistle keeper. The play wasn’t pretty but Thistle deserved the final score of 2-1. “Every man in the burgh is convinced that the championship flag will find its way to Meadowside,” reported the Sport.
If that flag was to find its way to Partick then Thistle would find a stiff challenge from Port Glasgow Athletic and Leith Athletic, who finished third and second in the previous season, in the next two games.
First up was the Port at Meadowside. Both teams had won their opening two league fixtures and were at the top of the division. The game was keenly anticipated and saw an improved crowd and a gate of £83. Although Port were expected to challenge it was an easy win for Thistle. The Port players were physical and Willie Freebairn in particular was targeted for some tough challenges. Freebairn missed three penalty kicks but scored a goal in the second half to give Thistle a comfortable 3-1 win and take the team clear at the top of the division.
Partick Thistle will be none the worse of their backward step. The team, as well as the Club, will benefit by a year in the Second Division. Should the championship go to Meadowside, and, judging from the present form of the players, it seems probable, then sorrow will be turned into joy. They have made a first-rate start. [Dundee Evening Telegraph]
After the acrimonious committee meetings of the previous season the first meeting of the new season was a harmonious affair. The new players that had been brought in were effective and the team was doing well. Thistle treasurer George Easton had been appointed secretary of the Glasgow and West of Scotland League. The meeting concluded with the financial report. Mr Easton reported an income of £401 and expenses of £385. Reported liabilities were £513, being £126 less than at the AGM in June. This was an indication that the club were returning to a more stale financial footing, particularly as the Meadowside Grand Stand was reported as being virtually complete.
The reserve team had been disbanded, replaced by an amateur team known as Partick Thistle Strollers: comprised of local players, they were managed by their own committee but with full control of Partick Thistle. A typical team was McIntosh, Hazelton, Gallacher, Grieve, Paul, Lang, Drysdale, Robertson, Lynn, Hay, and Stevenson. The reserve team situation at Meadowside was mirrored all over Scotland. Clubs couldn’t sustain professional reserve teams and the Scottish Federation, the competition that Thistle had been instrumental in starting, was now defunct. St Mirren had won the Federation in 1899 but didn’t receive a flag or medals.
St Mirren bought James Auchencloss for a fee of £100. It was a good piece of business by Thistle, who had signed the player three years earlier for nothing from Arthurlie. James Watson also left Meadowside, joining Morton for a £20 fee after lengthy discussions. Watson had been a regular member of last season’s half back line that had been completely replaced. William Hill left for Clyde and James Lamb moved to Linthouse.
If the Thistle players were beginning to feel confident about their championship hopes they were brought down to earth in the next game, away to Leith. David Proudfoot gave Thistle a half time lead but Leith scored twice early in the second half. Although Thistle came back into the game they were unable to equalise and lost 1-2.
The run of defeats was extended with a visit to Celtic Park for the Glasgow Cup. Celtic were at full strength but it would still have been a shock for the Thistle players, who were having a good season, to lose as heavily as 1-5. Bob Campbell scored Thistle’s goal from a penalty.
If the players were disappointed at the reverse at Celtic they quickly showed they had mastered Second Division opposition the following week, with a 4-1 win over Ayr. The opposing goalkeepers were brothers: Archie McDonald’s brother had replaced him in goals for Ayr and could have conceded more than four had Willie Paul, who was showing more energy than players half his age, not been injured. The crowd was again poor – “Financially the gate was disastrous for Partick Thistle” reported the Partick Press.
The poor man-management of the previous season’s committee was still impacting on the club a season on. Dickie Richmond, now with Dumbarton, claimed that the club still owed him for wages amounting to £10 15s 6d from the previous season when the club were in severe financial difficulty. It was reported that several players were still owed wages from the same period. At an SFA committee meeting Thistle admitted the arrears but asked for time to arrange payment as the club was “in a struggling condition and were doing their best”. The SFA found in Richmond’s favour but agreed to Thistle’s request that the arrears could agree terms with their players and ex players rather than be forced to pay the entire amount immediately. This was a relief to Thistle’s treasurer given the financial position of the club – the club suggested that if they were forced to settle at debts immediately it would force the club out of business..
In 1898 Thistle had played an ill-tempered friendly at Govandale against Linthouse and vowed never to face the Govan team again. However, in October they were compelled to travel over the Clyde for a league game. Linthouse were unbeaten and should have been tough opposition, but despite William Goudie missing a penalty early in the game, the match ended in an easy 5-1 win for Thistle. Scottish Sport was impressed – a third of the season was gone and the paper had Thistle installed as probable champions, likely to replace Clyde in the top division come the end of the season. William Freebairn impressed, showing some good individual touches, though the Partick Press warned that his trickery could lead to tough challenges and injury from provincial defenders not as appreciative of his skills. The Press wasn’t as impressed with William McDonald: “McDonald did not impress me very favourably. He seems to have no great liking for work, nor is he very active when it comes his way.” David Proudfoot picked up a knock and was likely to miss a few games, but there was no repeat of the rough game of the previous year.
One of the main reasons for Thistle’s good form was the fact that they had been able to field the same team since the start of the season. The injury to Proudfoot changed the league team for the first time since August as James Bryce stepped in at centre half. Airdrie were late arriving at Meadowside by twenty minutes and began the game slowly. Willie Paul opened the scoring with one of the easiest goals he had ever scored. Both full backs and the goalkeeper left the ball to one another, leaving the veteran Thistle forward to roll the ball over the line. Willie Freebairn, again, and Walter Collier were the pick of the Thistle players. Freebairn – “small but a rare worker and is very effective … a genuine worker and is seldom at fault” – scored twice. Collier was an efficient right winger whose crosses were dangerous, though the Sport reckoned he could be more effective if he aimed for the goal instead of hugging the touchline. George McDougall also caught the eye – “although somewhat slow on the ball, is a deadly shot when he gets an opening,” said the Press. Thistle remained at the top of the division with the 3-2 win.
Since the start of the season Thistle had been kept company by Morton and Port Glasgow Athletic at the top of the table and Thistle’s next game – a trip to Clune Park for the return game against the Port. Thistle had won 3-1 earlier in the season, but Port were keen for revenge. Thistle were accompanied by 600 fans who arrived to discover their favourites were under strength. Proudfoot, Collier, McDonald and Bob Campbell were missing from the lineup which contained Herbert Morrison, returned to represent Thistle again, as a favour from Third Lanark, and Bob Duncan. Duncan had been released at the end of the previous season and had rejoined as an amateur, and heeded the call when Collier caught a chill on his way from Kirkcaldy. Confidence was low, and when Freebairn got a kick in the face that “will make him quite unpresentable for some time” things looked worse. Although Thistle began the game well the home team dominated and inflicted Thistle’s first league defeat by 4 goals to 1, although Thistle remained at the top of the table.
A further defeat followed, this time a 1-2 defeat against Ayr, despite the return of Proudfoot, Collier, Ayrshire man Bob Campbell at right back, and the surprise appearance of James Clelland, who five years earlier had scored twice in the Scottish Cup final to win the cup for St Bernards and had this season been turning out for the Strollers. Thistle dropped to second place on goal average and the Partick Press suggested that they had “seriously damaged championship prospects” .
After two defeats the Sport felt that another defeat “was akin to saying goodbye to championship”, and the next match couldn’t have been tougher – against title rivals Morton at Cappielow. Changes were promised after the game at Ayr. A new goalkeeper was promised, and former Rangers reserve keeper James Yuille was signed, while Celtic loaned youngsters John Blackwood and David Fairbairn. Blackwood was a promising centre forward who needed experience, having played one game since having been signed just a few weeks earlier from Petershill.
In the end it was only Fairbairn who played against Morton, helping Willie Freebairn score a hat-trick, although two of his goals came when the home left back was off the field receiving treatment. It was an even game, and Morton might have taken something had it not been for full backs Wilson and Campbell’s “strong tackling and accurate passing” . The 3-2 win took Thistle back to the top of the division again to the delight of the large travelling support.
Enthusiasm was high amongst the passionate Thistle regulars who travelled to away games, but the club was failing to attract extra supporters to games at Meadowside, despite an attractive attacking team and some excellent results. The first game in November was the fourth away game in a row, at Broomfield. John Blackwood made his debut at centre forward, replacing Willie Paul, and leading his forward line with style while McDougall and Fairbairn scored the goals to beat Airdrieonians 2-0. Thistle remained two points ahead of Morton at the top of the league, and the Partick Press now felt that there were no reasons for Thistle not to win the league unless they made mistakes. “Partick Thistle lead the table and look capable of winning the championship,” said the Daily Record.
Leith Athletic were the first visitors to Meadowside for a month. In that time Thistle had lost a couple of games, won a couple, and retained their position at the top of the table. “Partick Thistle supporters are agreed that the present team is the best that has been got together since the 2nd Division Championship came to Partick [in 1897]. With a little care there is no reason why the performance should not be repeated,” the Daily Record reported. The Thistle committee and players must have been disappointed when only 1000 fans, the smallest gate of the season, turned out to watch the league leaders.
Leith were poor and a shoot on sight policy by the Thistle forwards meant they were 4-0 up at half time in the strong wind. By then the game was won and the home players coasted in the second half when no further goals were scored. Morton didn’t play and Thistle went four points clear at the top of the division. The half back line of Bryce, Proudfoot, and Goudie, all of sturdy build, played well, while Fairbairn and Freebairn, the ‘twa bairns’ made a good right wing. John Blackwood – “Blackwood keeps his place well, and is always up the field when wanted” – scored his first goals for the club.
Top of the division, Thistle had a two week break from the league, and recorded an excellent 4-0 win over Port Glasgow in the Western League, and were unlucky not to get a draw against Queen’s Park in a friendly. The forwards’ display against the Port was reckoned to be their best performance of the season, and Scottish Sport were impressed.
“Blackwood handles his wings smartly and when opportunity offers does not hesitate to bang the ball in the net. Fairbairn and Freebairn must be one of the smartest wing pairs in the second league. The former has a fine turn of speed and centres admirably, while the latter is a pot shot at goal.”
“Freebairn improves every week and certainly gave a brilliant exhibition on Saturday against the Port. As a dribbler he is effective and neat, passes at the right moment and knows how and when to shoot for goal.”
Meanwhile Morton were recording a win and a defeat and November ended with Thistle two points clear.
In Liverpool Robert Gray made his debut for Everton in a 3-0 win over Derby County, playing at outside left, having joined the club in the close season. In the opposition was ex Thistle player Joe Leiper who had been at Derby since 1892.
The poor crowds had been a concern to the Thistle committee all season. Gate receipts weren’t sufficient to pay for the size of squad at Meadowside, and at the start of December they were forced to release Walter Collier, Bob Duncan and James Paul, not for want of ability but for economic reasons. Poor crowds were a concern around Scotland, and James Watson was let go by Morton, just a couple of months after signing for them, because of an increasing wage bill in other positions.
Hamilton featured three ex Thistle players when they visited Meadowside, but James Brydson, George Allan and left back Buchan returned but none gave Thistle any problems. It was an easier game than the 3-0 score would indicate – Thistle could have scored more. Indeed towards the end the Thistle forwards were accused of showboating – “displays of ‘parlour’ football, sometimes described as sand-dancing.” James Blackwood again caught the eye of the Scottish Sport reporter.
If Hamilton were no opposition then Linthouse were even less. There was a time when even a mention of Partick Thistle would get the Govandale team fired up, revisiting old Partick/Govan rivalries. This time the Linthouse players didn’t look interested. The visiting goalkeeper didn’t look fit – any fit goalkeeper would surely have saved some of the goals. John Blackwood opened the scoring after just one minute, and ended the game with two goals, as did both of the ‘bairns and Willie Paul, returning to the team after a few games out. The game ended 8-1 and with Morton’s game abandoned Thistle went six points clear with just four games left, although Morton had two games more to play.
The poor attendances continued, however, and the latest to suffer were the families of British soldiers taking part in the Boer War. 10% of the Hamilton gate takings and a collection were to be donated to the War Relief Fund, but the proceeds didn’t reach £5 and the Thistle committee made up the balance.
On the other side of the Clyde Rangers were building a new stadium but it wasn’t ready for the league match with St Mirren and Thistle kindly allowed the league leaders to play their game at Meadowside. Rangers won 4-1.
St Mirren returned to Meadowside just before Xmas day and gave Thistle the chance to measure themselves against First Division opposition in the Western League. By the end of the game it was difficult to tell which team were in the higher division. Thistle won 4-1 and began to fancy their chances of winning the Western League as well as the Second Division.
The century ended with a visit to Ralston Park in Paisley where a 2-2 draw was achieved against Abercorn.
The New Year holiday took Thistle north for friendly matches against Inverness Clachnacuddin (5-0) and Orion (8-3). The Inverness papers remarked on Thistle’s systematic passing game. John Blackwood enhanced his reputation, scoring eight goals in the two games. The Thistle committee travelled with the team – Secretary Gilchrist, President Connell, and Messrs Robertson, Easton, Gilchrist, Smith, Waddell, McColl.
Blackwood continued his scoring exploits with a hat-trick at Love Street – the return game against St Mirren in the Western, but a disorganised and injury hit Thistle lost the game 3-4 with the last kick of the ball.
After the first round of the Scottish Cup Thistle threatened to launch a claim against the Caldonian Railway Company. The club had agreed with the railway that thee train from Glasgow to Ayrshire would stop at Gorbals to pick up John Blackwood and William Goudie, but it sped through the station, leaving the two players standing on the platform watching their teammates steam away down the track.
The players were on their way to play Scottish Qualifying Cup winners Galston, in what threatened to be a tricky cup tie. Galston were thought to be unbeatable at Riverside Park, so it was a gamble for Thistle to start the game with nine men, hoping that their missing duo would arrive soon. The gamble backfired after a minute when the home side took the lead, then missed a penalty. That was enough for Thistle to send on replacements: McDougall and McDonald brought the numbers back to eleven and Thistle came back with goals from McDougall and McNicoll to win 2-1.
Ex Thistle players were in the news. James Auchencloss had been a disappointment to St Mirren after his move from Meadowside, and had been dropped to the reserves. “[He] has turned out to be a white elephant for St Mirren ,” reckoned the Sport. John Campbell at Rangers was frustrated at not getting a regular game despite having scored five goals in the opening four league fixtures, and playing well for Glasgow against Sheffield.
An inauspicious friendly against Port Glasgow Athletic was won by Thistle 1-0 in mid-January. It was a game notable only for the debut of John Muirhead of Duntocher Hibs, who was to go on to play over 100 times for the club.
After some poor attendances earlier in the season Thistle had decided to reduce the admission charges to the newly roofed stand and the reserved enclosure at Meadowside by one half.
St Bernards were the next visitors to Meadowside for the second round of the Scottish Cup. The First Division side weren’t having a good season, but despite form, Thistle weren’t confident of victory. “If Partick Thistle can beat St Bernards it would be one of their best performances of a good season,” offered the Evening Times. A good crowd was confidently expected: “subway, car, ‘Clutha’ or railway will land you within a few minutes of the ground,” suggested the Sport.
The game was even until David Fairbairn scored late in the first half. Thistle were more confident in the second half, scored again through John Blackwood, and should have scored more. The tie ended with Thistle 2-1 victors. The Thistle players were presented with a £1, 10s bonus per player. The committee were rewarded with easily the best crowd of the season of 5,000 including Provost Wood and the commissioners of Partick Burgh (who had just rejected an attempt by Glasgow City to annex the independent burgh).
The crowd was around double the season’s average for the next league game – Motherwell at Meadowside. A 2-1 win put Thistle three points ahead of Morton with two games to play, although Morton still had a game in hand. However Scottish Sport reckoned that “the win practically ensures Partick Thistle will take the championship.” Motherwell started the game well and opened the scoring but the prolific Blackwood and Fairbairn claimed the precious points for Thistle.
The Scottish Cup draw had paired Thistle with Rangers at Meadowside. Rangers were the only team to have won at Meadowside since August, apart from the home team, so Thistle were keen to exact revenge. This would be tough, but the Daily Record pointed out that “Partick Thistle are a restless, untiring team apt to upset Rangers’ usual style of play.” There was huge anticipation of the game in Glasgow, so it was a huge disappointment when the game was postponed on the morning of the game. It was quickly rearranged to be played the following weekend.
The replay was a huge blow to the Scottish Junior FA, who had been advertising ‘The Event’ for a number of months. The event was an international at Meadowside, and the event had to be rearranged. It was frustrating for the club committee who were pleased that the ground was being considered for big matches.
A cup tie against old rivals Rangers, though, more than made up for the inconvenience caused to the juniors. The huge Thistle crowd (drawing a £260 gate) was optimistic before the game and with justifiable cause. Dressed all in white Thistle more than matched their illustrious opponents and held them to a 1-1 scoreline at halftime. However, the Thistle flaws of the previous season soon became evident. In the relegation season they were unable to cope with bigger and stronger teams, and in the second half Thistle couldn’t cope with Rangers’ pace and fell away badly. The one-sided second half ended 6-1 to Rangers. Goudie and McDougall, both ex-Rangers players, were the most prominent players for Thistle, who Scottish Sport reckoned had three main defects.
- Training, the men could not last the game on the heavy pitch.
- Accuracy, many of the passes were mere blind ones and erratic to a degree.
- Speed, their men were again and again beaten in this essential department.
While Thistle had been matching themselves with Rangers Morton had played their game in hand, and moved to within a point of Thistle. The teams had played the same number of games now: Thistle held a slight advantage and could stretch it with a visit to Hamilton, while Morton had no league game. 500 Thistle fans travelled to Douglas Park to watch. Morton, and Motherwell in third, would have been delighted when the score was announced as a 5-4 win for the home team. The Greenock team now appeared to have a game in hand and only a one point deficit while Motherwell were also within reach. However, later in the week it was announced that the Thistle players had protested about the state of the pitch before the game, and again at half time, with Accies leading 3-0. At the break the referee agreed to the protest, and the teams decided to end the game as a friendly, rather than disappoint the crowd. The status quo remained with Thistle a point ahead with two games to go. Morton were furious and demanded that the final score should stand as a league result.
In recent weeks concerns had been raised over the quality of goalkeepers at Meadowside. Archie McDonald had been dropped and John Spence returned to the team. After a 1-4 Western League defeat to Kilmarnock the defence had lost 15 goals in three games and concerns were raised over Thistle’s ability to avoid defeats in the remaining league games. William Wallace was signed from Third Lanark as cover and immediately recorded two shutouts in his first two games, a friendly win over East Stirlingshire and an excellent 4-0 win over First Division Clyde.
Thistle were dominant in every department – passing with great precision, tackling, kicking, shooting and exhibiting method and mutual understanding – Thistle could have won by more but eased up. McDougall was speedy and deadly in his shooting while Fairbairn was criticised for his poor close control but still managed to score two goals. Freebairn was also criticised for his indirectness – “he still mistakes the corner flag for the goal when on the ball but his fine shots and crosses from wide redeem him.” Willie Paul played well back in the team at inside left: “there are not many tricks he doesn’t know,” said the Sport. Goudie was the pick of the half-backs.
The Scottish Sport reported that two Thistle players were wanted by English First Division sides. Thistle announced that they wouldn’t think about a deal until after the league was won. The club weren’t really in a position to turn down transfer fees for players, but the financial situation was gradually improving. It was announced that the club’s debt was down to £350. The covering of the stand had cost £150 but increased gate receipts had been redeeming this expenditure. The poverty of league crowds was emphasised: more money taken from Scottish Cup games than all league games added together, even with a promotion-chasing team, while only three away games had paid any more than the £10 fee guaranteed regardless of the crowd.
The lack of interest in the league was highlighted with the final home league game. A win over Abercorn, and a loss for Morton at Leith, could give Thistle the championship. Although the crowd was up on the average league attendance it was still disappointing. Thistle started the game well and opened the scoring through Fairbairn, but then started taking things easy, letting Abercorn take a 3-1 half time lead. Nerves were strained and the situation looked bad, but Willie Freebairn and Willie Paul knew what was needed. Freebairn, then Paul, scored to equalise the game but when Freebairn again gave Thistle the lead again “hats, hankerchiefs, umberellas and what-not were being waved in a fashion worthy of an international.” Paul scored another to give Thistle a good lead, which might have been needed had Abercorn not had a ‘good’ goal disallowed.
The Sport reported that Paul and Freebairn were carried off the field “amid hilarious merriment. There was great reason for the demonstration, as the game has been pulled out of the fire, and at a time, too, when all seemed lost. The timeous fright will make the Thistle go all the way in future, and stimulate them to do what should have been done long ago.” Morton had won in Leith so the game would be decided on the last game of the season …
… unless Morton could persuade the League to reverse their decision and make the 4-5 defeat at Hamilton stand as a league result. Morton remained aggrieved at the decision to replay the game, suggesting that the pitch was no worse for Thistle than it had been when Morton had visited. However, the appeal was thrown out and the decision upheld on 28 March. In three days time Thistle would replay against Hamilton and a win would take the championship. Morton would play a Renfrewshire Cup semi final against Paisley Academicals and hope for a Thistle slip.
1500 Thistle fans (more than had turned up for some home games) travelled on special trains to Hamilton and were shocked when the home team scored after one minute. Thistle led 2-1 at half time but Hamilton were the better team for periods until veteran Willie Paul dribbled down the left, past half backs and full backs before scoring with a good shot. The game ended in a 4-2 win for Thistle and the championship was claimed while Morton qualified for the Renfrewshire cup final.
Final Second Division table
|3||Port Glasgow Athletic||18||10||0||8||50||41||20|
It was a satisfying end of the season for veteran Willie Paul and left back Andrew Wilson who won their second Second Division championship medals, and for match secretary James Gilchrist, who held the same position in the championship seasons of 1898 and 1900.
As champions it was expected that the club would formally apply for First Division membership. It wasn’t a foregone decision that promotion would be granted – the First Division clubs less St Bernards and Clyde would vote on whether they wanted new clubs for the following season, and that decision wasn’t always decided on football ability alone.
There were already four Glasgow clubs in the top ten – would they want another? Football in Renfrewshire was popular and it was felt that Morton, as the second best team in the league, would be an asset.
It had been a big decision for Thistle. It wasn’t difficult to remember the desperate times of the previous season as defeat after defeat demoralised the club. Scottish Sport reckoned that Thistle should turn down an invitation to step up and remain the top team in the Second Division rather than be “the wagless tail” of the First. Taking promotion could be a risky decision. Milo in the Evening Times agreed:
“I have to congratulate Partick Thistle in once more securing the championship of the Second Division. It is a big contrast from last season, when their almost weekly experience was reiterated and doleful defeat at the tail of the First Division. There may be some éclat in being included in the senior division, but when it entails little more than disappointment, with no compensating advantage, it is only a delusion and a shame. Better far championship in the Second Division than daily discredit in the First. I hope Partick Thistle will have the good sense to see the matter in that light. They have a good team, but not a first rate one, and in the circumstance should elect to remain where they are.”
While the club pondered the future in the top division the remainder of the Western League season was an anti-climax after a period when Thistle and Morton were again neck-and-neck. Clyde were again soundly beaten while a trio of defeats to Kilmarnock, Port Glasgow and Morton meant the season ended with Morton as champions at last.
Final Western League table
Port Glasgow Athletic
More important was team building for whatever next season might bring. Rangers agreed that William Goudie could remain at Meadowside. Unsurprisingly the club were also keen to retain John Blackwood and David Fairbairn from Celtic and and David McDougall from Rangers, and also wanted to sign William Wallace of Third Lanark permanently. However, word had spread south of Thistle’s players and Celtic and Rangers recalled Blackwood and McDougall respectively, before transferring them to Woolwich Arsenal and Bristol City. Fairbairn was also to return to Celtic Park and Thistle’s team for the following season was immediately weakened.
Willie Freebairn, David Proudfoot, George McNicoll, James Bryce and Andrew Wilson were quick to sign up for another season at Meadowside and they were joined by Tom Hyslop from Rangers and Tom Harvey. Harvey played as a trialist against a Scottish Amateur XI and did enough for Thistle to sign him from Irvine Meadow. He went on to represent the club in over 200 games.
Thistle decided to apply for First Division membership and the club committee kept themselves occupied waiting for the league meeting by playing a match against their Clyde counterparts. It was a sad occasion – a benefit match for the widow of Clyde goalkeeper Dick Wilson who died on active service in Pietmaritzburg fighting the Boer War. It was an opportunity for some of the men who had served the club as players to relive their past. The Thistle team was: President Connell; J.Robertson, R.Robertson; D.Gow, J.Waddell, John Gilchrist; J.L.Bennett, James Gilchrist, G.Easton, J.McColl, T.Robertson.
Morton had also decided to apply for promotion, and the two Second Division clubs would be voted on along with the bottom two in the First Division – Clyde and St Bernards. Dundee made a late proposal to extend the division to twelve clubs which would have made all four clubs happy, but the suggestion was rejected. When the votes were counted Morton had received most and St Bernards least. Thistle and Clyde were tied. League President McLaughlin, rather than use his casting vote, drew lots and Thistle were elected as a member of the new First Division along with rivals Morton, who had to promise to improve Cappielow’s facilities. “Now that the Meadowside club have once more got their head in front, I certainly look to their judicious management making a longer stay in the upper ten,” said the Scottish Sport.
Now that their future was secured for another year the committee began the task of replacing the high profile departures with new players capable of keeping the club in the First Division and establishing them away from the lower reaches of the table.
Comings and Goings
Robert Gray signed for Everton in the close season
Fred McDiarmid joined Dundee in the close season
David Proudfoot joined from Bedminster
William McDonald joined from Bedminster
William Goudie joined from Rangers (on loan)
David McDougall joined from Rangers (on loan)
Archie McDonald joined from Ayr
Dickie Richmond signed for Dumbarton
Rae joined Thistle from Cambusland Hibs
James Lamb signed for Linthouse
George Allan signed for Hamilton Academicals
Tom Scott signed for Cliftonville
James Auchencloss signed for St Mirren
James Watson signed for Morton
James Kirkland signed for Arthurlie
Robert Currie agrees to play for Ayr Parkhouse as an amateur
James Yuille joined from Rangers
John Blackwood joined from Celtic (on loan)
David Fairbairn joined from Celtic (on loan)
James Paul signed for Hamilton Academical
Walter Collier signed for Airdrieonians
William Wallace joined from Third Lanark (on trial)
Daniel Fletcher joined from Greenock Volunteers
James Brydson joined from Hamilton Academicals
Tom Hyslop joined from Rangers
David McDougall returned to Rangers (and then signed for Bristol City)
John Blackwood returned to Celtic (and then signed for Woolwich Arsenal)
David Fairbairn returned to Celtic
Daily Record Aug 1899 – May 1900
Scottish Sport July 1899 – June 1900
Evening Times July 1899 – Apr 1900
Partick & Maryhill Press Aug 1899 – Dec 1899
British Newspaper Archive Aug 1899 – May 1900
Season by season