3 League Cup Finals In 5 Years
3 League Cup Finals In 5 Years

by Donnie MacIsaac & Jack Little
League Cup

The Scottish League Cup was, to a great extent, a war baby. For many years (before the advent of the Challenge Cup, first contested in 1990) it was the youngest of the major Scottish trophies, with the Scottish Cup coming first, initially contested in 1873 and the Scottish Football League commencing in the 1890-91 season. When World War 2 started in September 1939, the Government ordered the closure of venues where large crowds gathered. This was described in “The SFL The First 100 Years” by Bob Crampsy as “an understandable panic reaction.” At first the SFA wanted only friendlies played but the Government realised that the measure wasn’t needed, and that missing competitive sport had a negative effect of morale. In addition the impact sport had on services recruitment and fundraising in World War 1 was remembered, and competitive football was back on the agenda.

Regional leagues were formed. The SFA proposed a “League Cup”, but did this without consulting the Scottish Football League! As 1939 became 1940, and the “Phoney War” allowed crowds to gather, in 1940 a War Emergency Cup was contested, with 31 clubs allowed to enter. Rangers beat Dundee United 1-0 in the final. Dundee United did beat Thistle in the 1st round, winning 4-2 at Firhill, followed by a 1-1 draw at Tannadice. This competition saw the advent of home and away ties – or as they were known at the time “home and home” ties. As mentioned above regional league football was permitted.

THE SOUTHERN LEAGUE CUP

The Southern League Cup was introduced in the 1940-41 season, and was the responsibility of the Southern League. There were 4 “mini-league” sections, with each group winner qualifying for the semi finals. The Jags were in Group A with Celtic, Motherwell, and Airdrie. Celtic topped the group and qualified, with Thistle missing out in 2nd place. Rangers beat Hearts in the final. In the 1941-42 contest, Thistle got to the semi-final stage, to be beaten 1-0 by Morton, in a replay, after a 1-1 draw, with Alex McSpadyen scoring. The club didn’t qualify from the group stages in subsequent seasons 1942-43 and 1943-44 and 1944-45. In 1945-46, the tournament was expanded with 7 groups of 4, with 1 group of 3, with teams from across Scotland entering. Thistle again didn’t qualify.

THE SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP

The regional League Cups were regarded as a complete success. The new national successor to the Southern League Cup was the Scottish League Cup, started in the 1946-47 season. Originally modelled on the Southern League Cup, this competition has had numerous formats but can be summarized as either sectional qualification before knock-out rounds, or knock-out rounds from the start.

Rangers beat Aberdeen 4-0 in the inaugural final at Hampden Park, with an attendance of over 82,000. East Fife won the trophy twice in the first four years, in 1947-48 and 1949-50. The late 1940s and early 1950s were East Fife’s golden years, when they were a strong competitive team. They also won the Scottish Cup in 1938.

THE 1953-54 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP

Thistle were drawn against Clyde, Stirling Albion and Dundee in their group. They started their campaign against Clyde at Firhill, and ran out 4-1 victors. Johnny MacKenzie and Bobby Howitt both scored. The Clyde goalkeeper was carried off injured and, after a Clyde goal, Davie Mathers and Jimmy Walker scored late goals to seal victory. The Jags went to Annfield, to play newly promoted Stirling Albion. The Thistle performance can only be described as a bad day at the office, and Albion ran out 3-0 winners. David Meiklejohn’s team then went to Dens Park, and Willie Sharp scored in the 1-1 draw. A crowd of 20,000 attended Shawfield for the away fixture against Clyde. In a see-saw match Alex Wright scored 2 and Johnny MacKenzie got the other Thistle goal, with the Jags running out 3-2 winners. Next up came the return fixture against Stirling Albion at Firhill. No slip ups this time, with Alex Wright, Willie Sharp and Johnny MacKenzie scoring. The scoreline could, however, have been much higher. At the end of August 1953, 26,000 fans made their way to Firhill to see the deciding match against Dundee. Thistle needed to score at least 3 goals without conceding any, as goal average (goals scored divided by goals conceded) would decide the group winner in the event of a Thistle victory. Thistle were 2 up by half-time (Bobby Howitt and Willie Sharp), and Dundee were perceived to indulge in “time wasting” by the unhappy locals. Thistle got their 3rd goal in the 85th minute when Alex Wright scored to send the crowd into raptures. An own goal 1 minute before full-time rubbed salt into the gaping Dundee wounds.

The home and away quarter-final opposition was Kilmarnock. Thistle lost 4-3 at Rugby Park (3 of Kilmarnock’s goals were scored after Bert Thomson was carried off with a broken leg) with Howitt, Sharp and Wright scoring in the 1st leg, but comfortably went through with the 4-0 victory at Firhill with a Jimmy Walker hat-trick and Johnny MacKenzie finishing the job emphatically.

Thistle drew Rangers in the semi-final, with the one-off tie being played at Hampden Park. There was a strong wind on the day, and the Jags had the wind at their backs in the 1st half. It took a little while for the Jags to work out that intricate passing wasn’t working and shoot on sight may prove more fruitful. A MacKenzie shot hit the post, with Alex Wright hitting the rebound past future Jag Niven on 34 minutes. Bobby Howitt got the second, with the woodwork again intervening. An Andy Kerr lob from distance came off the bar, and Bobby was on hand to knock it home, 1 minute before half time. Many Rangers supporters in the 48,064 crowd thought Rangers could still win the tie in the second half, but Thistle held out for the win.

THE 1953-54 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP FINAL

LC Final 53 Programme

The cup-final was set for Hampden Park on Saturday 24 October 1953, opponents East Fife. The Methil club had won the League Cup twice previously, firstly in the 1947-48 season when they beat Falkirk in a replay after an initial draw. They also won the cup in 1949-50 when they beat Dunfermline. Their route to the Final had seen them top a group with Aberdeen, Airdrie and Celtic as opponents. They beat Dunfermline in the quarter-final stage, and Hibs in their semi-final. There was an air of confidence in their camp as the Fifeshire Advertshire conveyed: “East Fife are at full strength and should bring the trophy back to Methil. Partick [sic] will have to produce much-improved form to make anything of a show against the strong-going Fifers.

On the morning of the match a report in the Fife Free Press thought that Thistle would be a stern test in an open game, and that a large East Fife following would be in attendance, with British Rail laying on extra trains from Fife to bring fans to Glasgow. The Glasgow Herald on the morning of the contest claimed that Thistle against East Fife wasn’t the most popular of contests. (What? No Rangers or Celtic, you may think.) It was even said that it was “unfortunate” that the two clubs were the contestants! The article went on to outline how the heavy pitch would not help Thistle, but may be more helpful to “the weighty slowish Methil side”. The sharper Thistle, it was claimed, should win the tie.

Thistle would finish 3rd in the SFL 1st Division this season, a feat they would famously repeat 9 years later. East Fife themselves would finish just a single point behind. Thistle were regarded by some as favourites to win this final, especially after their semi-final victory over Rangers, but in all honesty the pendulum of probability lay somewhere in the middle. 38,529 attended the contest and, although this seems like a fine crowd in today's terms, it was criticized as a low turn-out contemporaneously, given the prestige of the occasion.

The Thistle team was:- Tommy Ledgerwood, Jimmy McGowan, Bobby Gibb, Willie Crawford, Jimmy Davidson, Andy Kerr, Johnny MacKenzie, Bobby Howitt, Willie Sharp, Alex Wright, Jimmy Walker.

The East Fife line up was:- Johnny Curran, Don Emery, Sammy Stewart, Frank Christie, Willie Finlay, Danny McLennan, Jackie Stewart, Charlie Fleming, Jimmy Bonthrone, Ian Gardiner, Andy Matthew.

The first goal was for East Fife. A pass down the left wing to Christie, and he shot home from a very tight angle. East Fife were in the ascendancy at this stage in the contest, and in the 7th minute Thistle were 2-0 down. Christie, acknowledged in some of the newspaper reports as the man of the match, passed the ball to Fleming, and he fired the ball into the back of the net. Led by Johnny MacKenzie the Jags fought back, but on 35 minutes Bobby Howitt was injured. He moved to outside left, with Walker moving to centre-forward, and Willie Sharp to inside-left. Despite his injury Hewitt had a goalbound shot blocked just before the interval. Thistle had fought well after the early set backs, but the half-time score was East Fife 2 Thistle 0.

LC Final 53 Action
● L: Walker, of Thistle, and Stewart, of East Fife tussle for the ball. R: Whit a stramash! Jimmy Walker pulls one back for Thistle.

In the second half Johnny MacKenzie continued to inspire the Thistle fight back, with Bobby Howitt restored to his proper position. MacKenzie tormented the East Fife defence, but goalkeeper Johnny Curran was in fine form. He even had to leave the field to have a dislocated finger dealt with. In 47 minutes though, Johnny crossed the ball for Jimmy Walker to slam it home. In the 74th minute Johnny MacKenzie crashed home the equalizer, and a tired East Fife team seemed to be heading for defeat. That wasn’t to be. A long distance shot by Gardiner hit the back of the Thistle net in the 87th minute, and with only 3 minutes remaining, the contest was over. East Fife had won the cup.

The Evening Times of 24 October 1953 ran the football headline “Christie’s Classic Counter Captures Cup” The headline could have replaced Christie with (goalkeeper) Curran with perhaps a touch more accuracy. The Sunday Mail of 25 October took the view that Thistle had “butterfingered-it”.

An elderly publican in Methil passed away shortly the East Fife victory. He had been ordered not to attend the match because of ill health. The excitement of the East Fife victory, conveyed by live radio, proved to be too much for him. He no doubt died a happy man, but if only the Jags had won…

THE 1956-57 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP

Thistle’s group in the 1956-57 League Cup was a tough one, with Hearts, Hibs and Falkirk as opponents for that cherished top spot. The Jags first match was against Falkirk at Brockville on 11 August 1956.Shortly after the start of the 2nd half, Johnny MacKenzie was fouled in the penalty area, and Jimmy Davidson tucked away the penalty to put Thistle a goal up. Tommy Ewing scored with a 72nd minute header. Thistle conceded a penalty 6 minutes from time, but Willie Smith saved Bert Ormond’s kick, and effectively sealed the 2 points for Thistle.

A crowd of 21,000 came to Firhill for the next fixture, against Hearts. This was in the middle of August 1956. Johnny MacKenzie and Tommy Ewing put Thistle 2-0 up in the early stages of the contest, but Hearts pulled a goal back before the break. Johnny MacKenzie topped a fine display by passing to Alex Wright to slot the ball home 4 minutes from time. Thistle then hosted Hibs at Firhill. Johnny MacKenzie dazzled the Hibs side (with them missing a penalty on 38 minutes) and Jimmy Davidson didn’t miss with his penalty to give the Jags the lead. Alex Wright put the home side 2-0 up before half-time. Alex Wright then put the Jags 3-0 up, but a Hibs counter made it 3-1. In the 89th minute that prolific scorer George Smith tucked away a cross from Johnny MacKenzie to leave the final score 4-1 to Thistle.

Next up came Falkirk at Firhill on 28 August 1956.The crowd was 20,000, and they saw Tommy Ewing open the scoring 15 minutes into the tie. With a touch of symmetry Alex Wright scored 15 minutes from time, with the end result mirroring the score from Brockville earlier in the tournament, where Thistle won 2-0. A crowd of 40,000 were in Tynecastle 4 days later, and a determined Hearts opened the scoring on 40 seconds. They then hit the frame of the Thistle goal twice in the first 15 minutes. George Smith levelled the tie on 32 minutes, and in the 56th minute Tommy Ewing put the visitors 2-1 up. Hearts made it 2-2 9 minutes later, and that is how it ended. The Jags were back in the Capital 3 days later, and a magnificent 30,000 crowd filtered into Easter Road. Tommy Ledgerwood replaced Willie Smith in goal. Inside left Willie Crawford left the field with concussion 20 minutes into the contest. He took no further part in the tournament. Alex Wright and George Smith put Thistle 2-0 up at half time. Hibs scored at the start of the second period, and equalised before the end, so a 2-2 draw at Easter Road. The point gained secured top place in the group for Thistle, but for good measure Hearts dropped a point by drawing 1-1 at Brockville with Falkirk, with Hearts in 2nd place. Thistle were 2 points clear at the top of the group.

Thistle drew Cowdenbeath in the quarter-final, and won both the home and the away fixtures 2-1. George Smith and Tommy Ewing scored at Central Park, with George Smith scoring the 2 goals at Firhill.

The semi-final brought Thistle face to face with Dundee, with the showdown at Ibrox. Dundee were managed by Willie Thornton, who would join Thistle just over 3 years later, after the sudden death of Davie Meiklejohn. Saturday 6th October 1956 saw 24,000 at Ibrox. The football on show wasn’t pretty with the match ending in a 0-0 draw, after extra time. The Jags’ number 1 Willie Smith (who had replaced Tommy Ledgerwood) and his Dundee counterpart Bill Brown were on top form in a stuffy tie, and the replay took place 3 days later at the same venue. Willie Sharp wasn’t included in the Thistle line up in what proved to be Willie’s swansong season. The player took no further part in the League Cup campaign. There were some challenging tackles flying in, with striker Alex Wright injured early in the contest. Joe Hogan scored the Thistle opener, his first senior goal for the club. Despite the injury Alex Wright scored Thistle’s 2nd before the half-hour mark with a headed goal. George Christie and George O’Hara scored goals in the final 5 minutes of the first period to bring half time parity. Jimmy Davidson scored what proved to be the winner with a free kick on 68 minutes, but before the end Johnny MacKenzie was also injured. Thistle’s 2nd League Cup Final was to be against Celtic, who beat Clyde 2-0 in the other semi-final.

THE 1956-57 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP FINAL

LC Final 56 Programme

Neither club had won the League Cup previously, so a new name would be on the trophy this season. A crowd just short of 59,000 were in Hampden for the final on 27 October 1956. Goalkeeper Tommy Ledgerwood replaced Willie Smith for both the final and the replay. Peter Collins replaced John Harvey at right half. John took no part in the final or replay. George Smith returned from injury.

The Thistle team was:- Tommy Ledgerwood, Andy Kerr, Bobby Gibb, Peter Collins, Jimmy Davidson, Davie Mathers, Johnny Mackenzie, George Smith, Joe Hogan, Alex Wright, Tommy Ewing.

LC Final 56 Action
● L: Jimmy Davidson was at the heart of the battle. R: Alex Wright in an aerial tussle.

The Celtic team was:- Dick Beattie, Mike Haughney, Sean Fallon, Bobby Evans, John Jack, Bertie Peacock, Jimmy Walsh, Bobby Collins, Billy McPhail, Charlie Tully, Willie Fernie.

George Smith had to leave the field just before half time with an ankle injury sustained in an aerial challenge. This was unfortunate in that George was a prolific scorer for the Jags, and ended up top of the goal scoring chart for that season, in competitive goals. His prowess was sadly missed. He did return to the play, as there were no substitutes in those days. Jimmy Davidson also had to leave the field just on half time as he suffered a nasty gash to his eyebrow. He did return 10 minutes into the 2nd half, with the cut protected by a large plaster. George Smith could hardly run. Against what was effectively 9 men, Celtic did have some chances, which they didn’t take. They also had a good penalty claim turned down. The Glasgow Herald reported that “…Smith had the greatest difficulty in walking, let alone playing on the left wing.

Thistle could have won the cup but for 2 excellent saves from Celtic goalkeeper Dick Beattie. The Glasgow Herald report went on:

mh-quote.png

Indeed five minutes from time Beattie, whose only previous trouble had been in controlling his kicking of a ball about which I must have more to say later, prevented a catastrophe for Celtic by deflecting for a corner kick a shot which Davidson whacked far to the left of him. Had Beattie’s save not been of the highest class or had Davidson’s shot been inches higher or wider, the League Cup would have been Thistle’s.

The contest went to extra-time. Johnny MacKenzie brought out Beattie’s 2nd magnificent save. The Glasgow Herald describes the incident thus “And then as MacKenzie swooped out of defence, strode upfield, and shot with such a force and accuracy that Beattie managed only after a breath- taking leap to knuckle the ball over the crossbar…

The match ended 0-0 with the replay at the same venue 4 days later, on 31 October 1956. Thistle fans must have dreamed about different outcomes for those chances for quite some time after that match.

Thistle were weakened by the missing injured players for the replay. John Harvey who missed both matches against Celtic, Davie Mathers, Jimmy Davidson and George Smith. Peter Collins and Davie McParland and Willie Crawford came into the side.

The Thistle team in the replay was:- Tommy Ledgerwood, Andy Kerr, Bobby Gibb, Peter Collins, Willie Crawford, Davie Mathers, Johnny Mackenzie, Alex Wright , Joe Hogan, Davie McParland, Tommy Ewing.

The Celtic side was:- Dick Beattie, Mike Haughney, Sean Fallon, Bobby Evans, John Jack, Bertie Peacock, Charlie Tully, Bobby Collins, Billy McPhail, Willie Fernie, Neil Mochan.

A crowd of just over 31,000 were in attendance, with the 2:15 pm midweek kick off being blamed for the relatively small crowd. The 1st half saw no goals – but end to end play. Neither side were able to convert chances. Celtic used the wings to good effect, and according to the Glasgow Herald of 1st November 1956: “…during the periods when Tully was brought into the scheme of Celtic’s attack there was an obvious menace to Thistle. In the event it was Tully more than any other player who won the cup for his side.

Both goalkeepers made fine saves, repeating their performances from the previous tie, although Tommy Ledgerwood was the busier keeper. The 1st goal was scored in the 49th minute. McPhail intercepted an Andy Kerr pass back and chipped the ball over Tommy Ledgerwood. It was a simple goal. In the 51st minute McPhail again shot home, from a Neil Mochan cross. In the 59th minute Bobby Collins made it 3 from a Bobby Evans pass. The match ended with Celtic in commanding mood, and Thistle were beaten. It was Celtic who lifted their maiden League Cup trophy.

The 1958-59 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP

Thistle were drawn in a group with Motherwell, Dundee and Queen of the South. In the 1950s, Dundee faced Thistle at some stage in all 3 of the Thistle League Cup Final campaigns which resulted in final appearances. This campaign started with a trip to Dens Park on 9 August 1958. Doug Cowan scored a penalty for Dundee in the 10th minute, after the ball hit a Thistle hand in the penalty box. Dundee keeper Bill Brown kept goal impeccably, frustrating the Thistle forwards. Bill played for Scotland for the 1st time at the end of the previous season in June 1958. He went on to win 28 caps for his country. A cross was turned into his own goal by a Dundee player on 48 minutes. Then George Smith rifled home a 20-yard shot into the top corner of the goal 8 minutes later. That put the Jags 2-1 up. Dave Sneddon equalised for Dundee before another own goal sank the ‘Dees, and secured the 2 points for Thistle. Queen of the South were the Jags’ next opponents 4 days later, at Firhill. Thistle won 5-1, with Davie McParland scoring a hat-trick. Frank Donlevy and Andy Kerr were the other Thistle scorers. The following Saturday Thistle beat Motherwell 5-2 at Fir Park. George Smith scored 2 goals, with Andy Kerr, Tommy Ewing and Davie McParland getting the other three.

Saturday 23 August saw Dundee come to Firhill, and the Jags won 3-2. Alan Cousin scored the opening goal for Dundee on 36 minutes, but Andy Kerr equalised 6 minutes later. Alex Wright then put Thistle ahead. Ally Hill equalised for Dundee, but Andy Kerr’s 2nd goal won the tie with 15 minutes left to play. Thistle survived a late scare when a Dundee shot hit the post, but in the end the 3-2 Thistle win mirrored the score at Dens Park 2 weeks previously. Thistle had a 100% record of 8 points from 4 matches. The following Wednesday the Jags went to Palmerston Park, and a rejigged Thistle side were easily beaten 3-0. It could have been more. The final section match was against Motherwell at Firhill on Saturday 30 August 1958. The contest ended 1-1 with Andy Kerr again on the score sheet, in what was a physical match. Tommy Ledgerwood had an excellent performance in goal, but Thistle ended the group phase top of their group.

The quarter-final opponents were Arbroath, with the 1st leg played at Firhill on Wednesday 10 September 1958. A Jimmy Davidson own goal put Arbroath 1-0 up, and this was the half time score. In the 2nd a half Johnny MacKenzie pass was tucked away by Alex Wright on 70 minutes, to level the score. Frank Donlevy headed what proved to be the winning goal on 83 minutes. Thistle took a slender 2-1 lead to Gayfield a week later. Arbroath made a strong start again, but it was George Smith who extended the Jags’ aggregate lead on 21 minutes. Bill Nicoll equalized on the night in the 71st minute, but Thistle went through to the semi-final.

The semi-final opponents were Celtic, who crashed past their quarter-final opponents Cowdenbeath with a 10-1 scoreline over the home and away ties. The tie was listed for Ibrox on 1 October 1958. Tommy Ledgerwood (with a hand injury) and George Smith were injury worries, but both made the line up. The 1st half was uneventful, but on 59 minutes Tommy Ledgerwood dived at the feet of Fernie, and had to leave the field for treatment. Alex Wright took over in goal. Ledgerwood returned, but played on the right wing, with Johnny MacKenzie switching wings. Thistle were on top, and the switch seemed to confuse the Celtic defenders. In the 72nd minute, Donlevy crossed the ball into the box for Davie McParland to nod home. Johnny MacKenzie got the Jags’ 2nd in a breakaway, but Conway scored for Celtic 2 minutes from time. Too little too late, and Thistle went through to their 3rd final in a 5 year period.

THE 1958-59 SCOTTISH LEAGUE CUP FINAL

LC Final 58 Programme

Hearts beat Kilmarnock 3-0 in the other semi-final, so on 28 October 1958 it was Hearts and Thistle who contested the final at Hampden Park.

The Thistle team was:- Tommy Ledgerwood, Joe Hogan, Frank Donlevy, David Mathers, Jimmy Davidson, Alex Wright, Johnny MacKenzie, Lawrie Thomson, George Smith, Davie McParland, Tommy Ewing.

The Hearts team was:- Gordon Marshall, Bobby Kirk, George Thomson, Dave MacKay, Freddie Glidden, John Cumming, Johnny Hamilton, Jimmy Murray, Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh, Ian Crawford.

Thistle were missing Andy Kerr and Dougie Baird. Both were injured. It’s fair to say that this contest was a big disappointment for Thistle and their fans. This Hearts team were a very good team indeed – but the referee gifted them three offside goals – not to mention a MacKay foul that led to another goal. A biased opinion? Not according to press reports of the time. It must be said that Hearts were in all probability the better team, but Thistle had every right to feel aggrieved. Let the Glasgow Herald of Monday 27 October 1958 take up the story:

mh-quote.png

The officials controlling the game were among the minority who thought that Murray was on-side when he gathered the ball to hit a shot which went just wide enough to become a pass for Bauld. From the press seats it seemed that Murray was clearly offside but a linesman who was ideally placed to give a ruling had no hesitation in signalling play on…..he cracked the ball briskly into the net..

A 2nd goal came 5 minutes later. An over-heavy challenge by Dave MacKay went unpunished. The ball went to Kirk, who crossed for Murray to take the ball, put it past Tommy Ledgerwood on one side, whilst running past the keeper’s other side to score. Hearts got a 3rd goal on 28 minutes. Willie Bauld scored, when a Crawford corner was headed back across goal by Murray, and Bauld scored again. Let the Glasgow Herald now again take up the story:

mh-quote.png

Hearts 4th goal, scored after 38 minutes was marred by another offside dispute. Again Murray’s position appeared too good to be legal when he collected a pass from Hamilton. A linesman’s flag went up in unison with a desperate appeal from the Partick (sic) defence. But the referee ignored both and Murray sent a left foot drive streaking into the net off the far post.

LC Final 58 Action
● L: 1-0, and a dejected Tommy Ledgerwood walks to the back of the net. R: George Smith heads home for Thistle to make it 4-1.

Thistle were 4-0 down at half-time. When the 2nd half started the Jags had a golden spell, and came back into the contest strongly. The Glasgow Herald again:

mh-quote.png

The beginning of the second half brought a short but amazing revival which proved that Partick (sic) though overwhelmed were still not overawed. MacKenzie with a burst of his old fire raced clear on the right wing and chipped the ball accurately for Smith to head a fine goal. A few minutes later Marshall’s crossbar shuddered under the impact of a shot which had blurred twenty yards from McParland’s right foot.

Thistle’s goal was scored on 56 minutes. A Hamilton shot on 68 minutes finished the scoring. There was a shade of offside over this goal too. It just wasn’t Thistle’s day. Bobby Davidson was the referee.

DID THISTLE UNDER-ACHIEVE?

The inevitable question is whether Thistle should have won any of the Finals. Pundits over the years have cited the 1953 League Cup Final as one Thistle should have won. They were favourites having ousted Rangers in the semi-final. Curran and Christie had something to say about that. In his book “The Jags” Ian Archer noted:

mh-quote.png

The first should have been won, for the opponents in 1953 were East Fife who were not expected to trouble a Thistle team which included Ledgerwood, McGowan, Davidson, Kerr McKenzie, Sharp and Wright… the final was regarded as something of a formality, which is always dangerous.

The Thistle line-up in this match was arguably one of Thistle’s finest. It should also be noted, however, that East Fife beat the Jags both home and away in the SFL 1st Division fixtures that season. Ian concludes that the injuries to Jimmy Davidson and George Smith caused the 1956 final to peter out. Celtic won the replay. You may take a different view and believe that the 0-0 draw in the original game was the closest Thistle got to the cup in this decade. Had the Celtic keeper not been so sharp and kept out Davidson’s shot 5 minutes from time, or MacKenzie’s extra-time shot, the cup would have surely been Firhill bound. This match must rank highly at the Jag’s best chance for their 1st League Cup trophy. The refereeing decisions aside, the 1958-59 final against Hearts was by far the most difficult. Dave MacKay boasted at the celebration dinner after the final that Hearts should win the league, and with luck win the cup. They came 2nd in the league 2 points behind Rangers, and lost in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup to the same opponents. Perhaps they had used up their allocation of good luck with the offside decisions in the League Cup Final.

The manager for all 3 Cup Final campaigns was the magnificent Davie Meiklejohn. Davie took over from Donald Turner in June 1947. Donald had been manager since May 1929, and had served for 18 years with much success during difficult times. At 66 years old he asked to resign and become club secretary. Davie took over as manager and was in post for the next 12 years until his untimely death in August 1959. He inherited wonderful players, although some such as Jim Steadward had just left the club. Hugh Brown, Ma Ba McKennan and Alex McSpadyen would also leave early in the new manager’s tenure. Wonderful players such as Jimmy Davidson, Willie Hewitt, Johnny MacKenzie, Jimmy Walker, Tommy Ledgerwood and Bobby Gibb came through to the 1st team. Davie Meiklejohn was one of the Jags finest ever managers. He took Thistle to these three cup finals in a 5 year period, and kept the club in the upper half of the SFL top league for a decade. In 1948 and 1954 Thistle reached their highest league position of 3rd in the league. Sadly he suffered a heart attack at a match against Airdrie at Broomfield, and died in the club pavilion. Adam McLean took over as caretaker manager.

LC Final 58 Action
● They played in all 3 cup finals, L to R: Tommy Ledgerwood, Alex Wright, Jimmy Davidson & Johnny MacKenzie.

There were 4 players who played in all 3 Cup Finals. They were Tommy Ledgerwood, Alex Wright, Jimmy Davidson (the first match against Celtic) and Johnny MacKenzie (all pictured). Andy Kerr played in the first 2 finals, and all of the matches in the 1958 competition apart from the final, because of injury. Dougie Baird is another player who played in the first 2 finals, and all bar 2 ties in the 1958 cup, including the final again because of injury. Davie McParland played in the 1958 Cup Final and 13 years later was manager when Thistle beat Celtic 4-1 in the 1971 League Cup Final, rightly becoming a legend in Thistle folklore.

The 50s decade was a competitive time in Scottish football. Rangers were strong, Celtic ever improving, Hibs had the Famous Five, Hearts, as we read above were a most competitive team. Hibs, Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen and Hearts all won the top Division during that decade. The fine Jags’ teams of that period did wonderfully well to be competitive with such strong opposition. The failing to get over that final hurdle means their achievements are often overlooked. Overlook no more.



Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 10-Jul-2024.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 05-Jun-2024.


For a deeper dive into the cup finals, our match hubs are packed with a great many press cuttings:

Sat-24-Oct-1953 Partick Thistle 2 East Fife 3 (League Cup Final) →


Sat-27-Oct-1956 Partick Thistle 0 Celtic 0 (League Cup Final) →


Wed-31-Oct-1956 Partick Thistle 0 Celtic 3 (League Cup Final replay) →


Sat-25-Oct-1958 Partick Thistle 1 Heart of Midlothian 5 (League Cup Final) →

© The Thistle Archive 2015-2024. All rights reserved. Third-party trademarks and content are the property of their respective owners, and subject to their own copyright terms and conditions. See the website links provided in each case.