1887-88 The First Internationalist


  • Scottish Cup win over Rangers
  • “Partick Thistle are regarded as Scottish Cup contenders”
  • Unbeaten in the New Year tour of North-East England
  • Willie Paul scores for Scotland against Wales

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The Glasgow FA Cup was finally organised for the start of this season, and it replaced the English Cup on Partick Thistle’s fixture list – travelling expenses were lighter in the Glasgow Cup.

Thistle were teamed with Cowlairs, but before the cup ties began games against Shettleston (4-1), Northern (3-2), Cambuslang (3-1) were won, while a controversial game against Dumbarton Athletic saw Thistle lose 3-5 after the referee, an Athletic member, allowed a protested goal.

Willie Paul played against Cambuslang, but rumours circulated that he was due to join either Lancashire club Church (who had played at Inchview a few months earlier) or Queen’s Park. J.Munro had joined the club from local club Westburn, as was J.Stewart, while the entire Rosevale club joined Partick Thistle, thus allowing Thistle the opportunity of playing them in a Scottish Cup tie if required.

A further new arrival at Inchview made a scoring debut in the first Scottish Cup tie of the season. Jim Buchanan moved from Rangers as sources indicated that Rangers should have kept the player. Westbourne were the opponents at Inchview, and Thistle dominated and won easily 10-0 after Jerry Suter scored in four minutes. Willie Paul did not play.

Thistle were rewarded for their cup win with another home tie, this time against Rangers – probably the biggest game played at Inchview. However, before the cup tie Thistle warmed up with the worst possible consequences.

A bad-tempered game against Morton at Cappielow was disrupted after the referee disallowed a Partick Thistle goal. The remainder of the game was described as “hotly contested”. The following week Vale of Leven beat a weakened Thistle team 9-0 as Caldwell injured himself for the Rangers tie.

PT v Rangers Rangers were favourites, with odds of 8-1 to win the Scottish Cup, while Partick Thistle’s odds were slightly longer at 10-1. Thistle’s confidence had taken a dent after the Vale of Leven match. A local hatter had promised a new hat for each of the winning team. The attendance at Inchview was a record 8000, and they were delighted to see Willie Paul play. Rangers were keen to avenge the defeat of the previous season and dominated the first half. Bob Marshall scored twice, and this was enough for Thistle to clinch the game 2-1 for a memorable victory, although an equaliser scored by Rangers on the final whistle was disallowed.

The following week saw the first Glasgow Cup tie, with the added spice that the ex-Partick Thistle President Josh Halley had joined Cowlairs – the opposition. A great rivalry had built up between the teams, and when Jim Buchanan gave the visitors the lead, the Thistle fans hoped for the best. However, Cowlairs equalised and when goalkeeper Burns made a mistake, Cowlairs won the match 2-1. Josh Halley stated after the game that Partick Thistle were the best team they had met that season so far.

Thistle had experienced trouble beating Port Glasgow Athletic at Clune Park in previous seasons, and this was no different. Willie Paul scored for Thistle but Athletic scored three times to win the game.

The following week Dumbarton visited Inchview, a game that saw Caldwell return from a two-month injury. The play was even, Buchanan, Paul and Marshall scoring for Partick Thistle to win 4-3.

Having drawn a bye into the third round of the Scottish Cup, the 4-3 win over Dumbarton was regarded as a tremendous boost. The Scottish Umpire reported that “in current form, Partick Thistle are regarded as Scottish Cup contenders”.

A benefit match was organised for John Marshall, who had retired through ill-health some months previously. Jerry Suter scored “one of the finest goals ever taken on a football field”, taking the ball almost the full length of the field before shooting from 25 yards out, while Johnston also scored. Score 2-1 to Partick Thistle against Airdrieonians.

Although he didn’t score against Airdrie, Willie Paul continued to attract the attentions of other clubs, but continued to state that he was not interested in moving clubs. However, Caldwell, just back from injury, joined Josh Halley at Cowlairs.

Bad luck haunted another trip to the Vale of Leven at the end of October, when Thistle were defeated 5-0 by Renton. This followed a 9-0 defeat by Renton’s neighbours Vale of Leven.

A further home tie in the Scottish Cup saw Kilmarnock visit Inchview. Suter scored a goal after three minutes which was equalised, and then added to by the visitors. It took until late in the game for Buchanan to tie the game and avert a surprise result. The match reports for this game was the first that referred to the team as The Jags.

The following week’s trip to Rugby Park for the replayed tie started badly. Jerry Suter was late arriving and Thistle had to start with ten men. However, Willie Paul got things started with a goal before Suter arrived. Thistle were always in control, and scored another three before Kilmarnock scored one. Score 4-1.  “…the Partick eleven are an unassuming lot of youths; but there is a smartness, a neatness, about them which is very prepossessing.

The reward for progressing in the Cup was, predictably, another tie against Queen’s Park, this time at Inchview. Prior to that was a return match against Airdrie at Mavisbank. Buchanan, Paul and Robertson scored for Partick Thistle in a 4-3 win.

Captain John Hendry had been married the day before the Queen’s Park tie. The weather was poor and the visitors suggested playing a friendly because of the conditions. Thistle decided to play the cup tie. Queens scored an early goal, and although Thistle had most of the play, Queens scored again before the end, against the run of play.  Again, Queen’s Park had ended dreams of cup success.

PT v 3rd Lanark Third Lanark were due to play at Inchview in early December. By 2.45 on the day of the game a large crowd had gathered outside when a telegram arrived from Third Lanark calling off the game due to lack of players. There was great disappointment because the teams had not met for four years. However, the game was re-arranged for the following week, when Thirds won comfortably 3-1.

The following week St Bernards of Edinburgh visited Inchview, again short of players. Replacements were found, including internationalist goalkeeper George Gillespie of Queen’s Park. Buchanan, Galt, and Johnston (2) scored for a 4-0 win to Partick Thistle.

Hogmany 1887 saw Thistle travel to Ibrox to play Rangers. The early part of the game was all Thistle, with a goal disallowed for offside, until Rangers scored two. The second half was all Thistle again, with ex-Ranger Buchanan scoring, but Rangers scored again. The game finished with great Partick Thistle pressure. John Stewart had been receiving abuse from the crowd all afternoon. At a throw-in he lost his temper and threw the ball at a particularly abusive spectator. As Stewart stooped to pick up the ball the spectator struck him on the back of the head, which started a fight on the edge of the pitch, eventually ended by committee men, policemen, and John Gow of the home team. “In an instant fists were up and an exhibition of the ‘Sullivan Art took place,” reported the Glasgow Evening Post. The game ended 3-1 to Rangers.

The New Year tour was to the northeast of England, and saw Thistle beat Darlington (2-0), Newcastle East End (3-2 by the reserve team) and Sunderland (4-2 in front of 7000, with goals from Suter, Johnston, Paul and Buchanan).

Returning home, scores were settled with a 6-0 win over Port Glasgow Athletic, and a 1-0 win over Third Lanark.

Again, Queen’s Park were to be the obstacle that stopped a good Partick Thistle run. Despite goals from Robertson and Johnston, Queens won 3-2. However, that same day at the end of January Willie Paul was missing, playing for Glasgow against Sheffield.

John Marshall, the Thistle player who retired in 1886, died on the 2nd February after a lengthy illness from a chest disorder. Marshall had originally played for Partick, and had joined Partick Thistle when Partick ceased to exist. Playing centre forward he had been a valuable player. The match between Partick Thistle and Airdrie on 22nd October raised between £20 and £30 for Marshall’s benefit. Mr Boag and Mr Smith attended the funeral, and the club sent a beautiful wreath.

PT v Vale of Leven All flags at Inchview flew at half-mast, and both 1st and 2nd XIs wore black armbands as a sign of respect the following Saturday. Vale of Leven were the visitors and they triumphed 3-1.

A cloud remained over Inchview, and two successive defeats from Cambuslang (1-2) and Battlefield (2-3) didn’t help. Willie Paul was again absent from the Battlefield game, playing for Glasgow against Edinburgh.

The SFA’s continued opposition to professionalism had led to an enquiry and clubs were requested to give the SFA access to their books. In November, Partick Thistle were one of these clubs, and the books were returned at the end of February, accepted as being in good order.

Paul returned to the side to play Morton at Inchview and showed his form with five goals in a 6-2 win.

The following week he was missing again, this time becoming the club’s first ever full internationalist, playing for Scotland against Wales at Easter Road. Partnering Willie Groves of Hibernian, he scored one of Scotland’s goals in a 5-1 win. Welsh legend Bob Roberts reckoned Willie “… the best forward on the field in this international.” He said Paul was not individually brilliant, but he played to his men – ironic given criticism he received later in his career for not being a team player.

Missing Paul, his teammates played out a 1-1 draw with Airdrie at Inchview.

At this time SFA policy was to play players only one a season in internationals to allow others the chance to play international football. However, there appeared to be a chance that Paul might be called up to play against England due to injuries. Paul would have become the first player ever to play in two internationals in one year. Injuries cleared up and Paul remained with Partick Thistle for the rest of the season.

Irish side County Derry travelled to Inchview for a match, and blamed the “state of their internal organs” for their poor result – 7-1 to Thistle.

Late March/early April saw a poor run of results with defeats by Renton (2-4), Hibernian (0-2), and Dumbarton Athletic (2-3), before 4-2 (Kilbirnie) and 2-1 (Dumbarton) wins were recorded.

The season virtually over, there were a few scrappy friendlies played. A 4-5 defeat by Mid-Annandale at Livingstone Place Park, and a 1-1 draw in a return game at Inchview, a 0-2 defeat at Northern, and a 2-6 defeat against St Bernards were played, before the season was finished with a 5-3 win over Cowlairs.

Because of his popularity, Willie Paul was playing as a guest for other clubs in several games at the end of the season, including the Queen’s Park 21st birthday match against Preston North End.

At the Annual Meeting it was reported that the bank balance was over £100 to the good. The following were elected:

  • Patrons Sir Andrew McLean, A.Craig-Sellar
  • Hon President J.W.Robinson
  • President John N Boag
  • Vice President William Stirling
  • Hon & 2nd XI Secretary Andrew M Smith
  • Match Secretary Jervis (Jerry) Suter, 7 Dowanhill Street
  • Treasurer Charles McQuarrie
  • Committee John Hendry, D.McKerral, A.Leckie, R.Young, T.Ward, Robert Robertson
  • 1st XI captain Willie Paul
  • 2nd XI captain Andrew Mackay
  • Representative to SFA John M Boag (formerly of Partick)
  • Representative to GFA Charles McQuarrie
  • Representative to 2nd XI Association Andrew M Smith

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2 Responses to 1887-88

  1. Peter jefferies says:

    Was this Westburn football club I have a medal dated 1887 1888
    Peter jefferies

  2. niallcinneide says:

    Hi Peter

    I’d love to see the medal. Would you be able to take a photo and send it to me?

    There were three Westburn clubs in the 1880s – a senior club in Rutherglen, a junior team in Dumfries, and the team from Partick which was also a junior outfit.


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