The Class Of '21

by William Sheridan
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Introduction

On the 16th April, 1921, eleven men took to the field and defeated the Rangers by one to nil, thus securing the Scottish Cup for Partick Thistle.

Campbell, Crichton & Bulloch; Harris, Wilson & Borthwick; Blair, Kinloch, Johnstone, McMenemy & Salisbury.

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Now, what I think should happen is that people who support Thistle memorize these names, because these are people who are outstandingly important, and it should be part of the curriculum in Maryhill primary schools. (Robert Reid, April, 2021)

You should listen to that man, he's very wise, used to be a head teacher you know. We're a' Robert Reid's bairns!

Of course, there was more to it than those eleven could physically have managed, for the Thistle took an astonishing eleven matches to eventually secure the trophy, creating all sorts of unique records along the way. In total, 18 squad members contributed to the herculean struggle, almost wholly fought in the mud, wind and rain. These men are profiled below, as well the two group leaders, George Easton (manager) and Sandy Lister (trainer). Clicking on any of the table 'anchor' links below will fast-track you down to their story profile on this page. Clicking on any of the photos will magically transport you over to their main hub page here on the Archive.

The pen pics below were written for The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill → and are slightly tweaked here to accommodate the single piece approach. They are listed in the order in which they appeared in that original story.

Right then, pens and paper at the ready, children of Maryhill. Are we sitting comfortably? Good. Then we shall begin…


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… GEORGE EASTON (manager)
George Easton

GEORGE EASTON or, as I like to call him, the faither of Firhill, was a South Lanarkshire native, drawn to Glasgow to ply his trade as an accountant. He became involved with the Jags in the latter days of Inchview in the 1890s, working his way through various roles described as treasurer, treasurer-secretary, secretary-manager and manager, as he flitted with the club to Meadowside then Firhill, the ground which he was instrumental in identifying and acquiring. His roots in finance served him well throughout his career, but it was after Thistle became a limited company in 1903 when he started becoming more directly involved with on-the-park matters.

In his era, the manager's job description was rather different to the one we're used to nowadays. Responsibility for picking the team remained with a director's collective, although George undoubtedly had a big say as the chief executive, and would often be the man feeding the press with the pre-match team news. “Big Geordie”, genial of character and well respected throughout the game, had excellent man-management skills, and had an ability to attract a calibre of player that might otherwise have been out of reach. This, and his forte for talent-spotting in the juniors and acting to strike the right deal at the right time, lay at the heart of his success. Ex-player and fellow director William Ward said of him: “George had the junior field continually under his survey. There was no player of promise he did not know about, and his sources of information ranged all over the country.

As far as Thistle managers go, he can lay claim to most entries in the honours list, with 4 trophy wins and 9 runners-up spots. As a winner: Scottish Cup (1921), Stirling Charity Cup (1924), Glasgow Charity Cup (1927) & Glasgow Dental Cup (1928). As a runner-up: Glasgow Charity Cup (1905), Glasgow Cup (1911), Glasgow Cup (1914), Glasgow Charity Cup (1916), Glasgow Cup (1917), Glasgow Charity Cup (1918), Glasgow Cup (1919), Stirling Charity Cup (1926) & Stirling Charity Cup (1927). Thistle fans who recently celebrated the much coveted “Top 6” finish in the League can't fail to be impressed by the tally of 12 “Top 6” finishes in the George Easton era.

He himself once pulled on the centre-forward's shirt in a Partick Thistle committee v Clyde committee charity match (30th April 1900) but the scoreline remains elusive. In a way, I'm quietly pleased about this, as the possibility of a George Easton goal for Thistle remains alive in the imagination!

The 46-year-old had given almost 25 years of service by 1921, and would literally serve the club until the day he died, 8 years later. He was the proudest man in Scotland when Thistle won the Scottish Cup, but it might be argued that his defining legacy was the identification of the Firhill land in 1908, the outright purchasing of the same in 1916, and developing the excellent main stand in 1927 thanks, in no small part, to his wheeling and dealing in the players market. As his wife, Jeanie, and two sons would likely confirm, “the advancement and welfare of the club was his chief aim and ambition in life”. His ambitions were met, and the only thing missing to complete his story is the George Easton Stand; there are none more worthy.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… SANDY LISTER (trainer)
Sandy Lister

The 60-year-old SANDY LISTER was midway through his 15 year stint as Partick Thistle trainer, and age seems to have been no barrier to the Fifer, himself described as a “keen sportsman”. Whilst George Easton would offer encouragement and counsel to the players, as well as dealing with their contracts and wages, it was the trainer who would have most hands-on dealings with them. His main role was to keep them fit and free of injury, and to deal with any surface-level knocks that might be received. Our man was no part-timer either; being a football trainer was Sandy's profession.

In conjunction with the club-captain and other senior players, most trainers of the day would also be involved with tactics, such as they were in the 2-3-5 era. Although I've no contemporary evidence to back it up one way or another, I'd be surprised if Sandy didn't have his say in that department.

Incidentally, we had an unknown Lister make one first-team appearance in 1884-85. Sandy would be 24 at that time. It couldn't be… could it? Trivia fans will be amused to hear that our on-duty trainer had to endure the quandary of his son, Jimmy, netting a brace against the Jags (13-Apr-1915) whilst on trial at Rangers!

Goalie Kenny Campbell has stated that, under Sandy Lister's care, the boys were in fine trim, and much of the success in season 1920-21 can therefore be attributed to him; our team had the stamina to get through 1,000 minutes of Scottish Cup action, never mind the League and Glasgow Cups, and, as the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Sandy won't have received a winners' medal in 1921, but he's certainly deserving of this virtual version, 100 years on.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JOE HARRIS
Joe Harris

Writing in the Sunday Post after our Scottish Cup opener at Easter Road, Albert Buick, in common with most commentators at this time, was full of praise for our right half, JOE HARRIS, who “tackled and fed in the way an Internationalist should”. As the Athletic News put it: “In the marvellously good half-hack line which has been Partick Thistle's sheet anchor, Harris has been the outstanding figure”. Joe was a linchpin of The Class Of '21, and was one of only three Jagsmen to feature in all eleven games of the Scottish Cup campaign. Indeed, at the time of that opening game in February, he was currently sitting on a personal best run of 38 consecutive competitive appearances, not having missed a game since last April. Very soon, winning the Scottish Cup with Thistle and British Championship with Scotland, would make for a breathtaking double entry on his CV.

In the summer of '13, several senior clubs were showing an interest in the talented Brigton lad who had come through the ranks at Shettleston and Strathclyde, but, as the Scottish Referee put it, “manager Easton secured his signature whilst other aspirants awaited developments”. The 20-year-old made his debut on 16th August, 1913, starring in a 2-1 win at home to Motherwell in the SFL First Division, commanding from the off. What a shrewd signing he proved to be. Joe arrived as a left half, but gradually migrated to the right, to accommodate Jimmy McMullan and for the greater good of the team. He clocked up 248 appearances in his 10 years at Firhill, a figure greatly limited by the First World War, as Joe served with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

So impressed were the Scottish selectors in that game at Easter Road, that they finally gave in to the calls for Joe to be capped, and he was duly selected for next week's match against Wales, ahead of George Halley (Burnley). At last, his consistency was being rewarded. Within days of this news, the Thistle directors ratified a lucrative benefit, which would be realized just 7 days after the Cup Final, in the form of a home League game against Ayr United, where the cup was paraded at half-time. As the Sunday Post put it: “They were accorded a magnificent ovation from their followers”. This benefit would very much prove to be a two-way relationship, as the Firhill board cashed in handsomely in 1923, when Joe commanded a huge transfer fee of £4,200 from Middlesbrough, before reuniting with his old Firhill buddy, Neil Harris, at Newcastle United, where, tellingly, he was again honoured with a benefit.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JIMMY McMENEMY
Jimmy McMenemy

George Easton's pre-season coup was the talk of the press in the summer of '20, as 39-year-old JIMMY McMENEMY of Celtic put pen to paper at Firhill. 11 Scottish titles, 6 Scottish Cup wins and 12 Scottish caps (the most recent just 3 months earlier) was his story so far. A true giant of the Scottish game, it was almost inconceivable in footballing circles that the inside-left-cum-midfield-general could ever be parted from Parkhead as a player. The matter was a simple one however; Celtic gaffer Willie Maley wasn't convinced he had the engine for another season, and Jimmy felt that he did. Ultimately, the split was amicable, and Thistle were the beneficiaries.

It was the colourful Maley who was first to label him 'Napoleon', in small part for his physical likeness to the French military leader of some 100 years earlier, but largely as a nod to his ability to read the game, dictate the play and inspire his troops to victory in the vast majority of his battles. Quite aside from his traits as field marshal, he was an exceptionally talented footballer; quick-footed and tricky on the dribble with a dead-eye for the killer pass. A war horse on the park he may have been, but there end the similarities with 'old boney', Jimmy being self-effacing and mild-mannered by nature, and very much able for getting his team mates onside, certain to be appreciated by the down-to-earth George Easton himself.

By and large, Jimmy was proved right in backing himself for first class football in 1920-21, although navigating a monster campaign of 55 competitive games pushed him to his physical limits. In the end, he played in 38 of those games, and consistently drew praise for the high level of his performances, well into his 41st year, forging a formidable partnership on the left side, in front of fellow internationalist, Jimmy McMullan. How incredible that, as fate would have it, Jimmy would return to his old Celtic Park stomping ground twice in this season's Scottish Cup campaign. And that, twice, he would lead the Jags to victory there. And that the second of these would earn the 40-year-old a winners medal against his auld enemy. It's an incredible story in the Thistle history books. Bravo Napoleon - vive la révolution!


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… ANDREW KERR
Andrew Kerr

ANDREW KERR, a Falkirk-born centre, was a pre-season capture from Ardrossan Winton Rovers, where he was highly prolific and thought of as a “hot prosepct”. By the end of January, Jags were third in the League and Andrew was sitting top of our scorers chart with 9 goals. Unfortunately, there would be no advance on that total, although he still sat second top by season's end. In truth, there was no hotshot striker for the Jags this term, the relatively low number of goals being spread across the front line.

He was probably up against it from the start, arriving as he did on the back of Neil Harris's record-breaking 31-goal season, and maybe the pressure to fill those boots was too much. Andrew's second and final game in our Cup campaign came on match day two against Hibs, and the double nil nil in those games typified our struggle in the final third as 1921 unfolded. The match report suggests that he failed to take his chances on the day; Andrew seemed to be held up as a scapegoat, and made only 3 more appearances for the club from hereon.

One great stat goes in his favour - Jags never lost a game in which Andrew scored! By the end of the year, he took a step back to East Stirlingshire and then again back home to Ardrossan, where his confidence was fully revived. Wonderfully, as the mid-1920s wore on, his goalscoring prowess would be fully realised with Luton Town, Reading (Division 3 champions in 1925-26) and Queens Park Rangers.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… WILLIE HAMILTON
Willie Hamilton

I've always thought the old 11 cup winners' medals rule rather mean and unforgiving, and the case of WILLIE HAMILTON strengthens my feeling on the subject. “Hammy” gave more than 10 years of excellent service to the Thistle cause, and Glasgow became his home from home. The likeable Fifer, quiet and genial off the park, was a whole-hearted competitor on it, excelling in the breaking up of play and leading by example. As a testament to his worth and popularity, there was a fine turnout of 8,000 for his benefit in the spring of 1920, as Jags defeated a first class Newcastle team by 3 goals to 2.

The directors fancied him as a number nine when he first arrived from Dunfermline in 1911, but he wasn't long in falling back to the half-back line where his real combative strengths lay. He had to bide his time to finally claim the centre half position for his own, and did so after the retiral of Alec Raisbeck a few years down the line. In the meantime, he was assisting both the first and second elevens, winning the League championship (1912) and Scottish Cup (1914) with the latter. During his 10 years, he would also claim 5 runners-up medals in local cup action with the first team. However, the Scottish Cup badge of honour was the one he dearly craved.

He was in his footballing prime this season, the beating heart of the acclaimed middle three - Harris, Hamilton & McMullan - regarded as one of the finest lines in the Scottish game at the time, and undoubtedly a major contributing factor to the success of the team in 1920-21. Willie featured in 40 of the 55 games in this most demanding of campaigns. He had played in every round of the Scottish Cup, and was all set to make his 300th appearance in the final itself. Although he had retired, reportedly injured, during the Hamilton game 8 days earlier, there did not seem to be a problem on the eve of the Cup final, as Willie was included in all the pre-match line-ups. However, he took ill (again) on the day of the game, a reccuring report of late, and it must have been serious for him to miss such an occasion. As it transpired, he was suffering from TB, and, shockingly, succumbed to the disease exactly 4 months after the final, aged just 31.

He died on the day of the opening game of season 1921-22, and the flags at Firhill flew at half-mast in tribute, as his team mates defeated Clydebank by one goal to nothing. Around 16,000 were at Firhill to see the Cup holders kick-off the new season, and, I'd like to think a great many of them raised a parting glass on that Tuesday evening to a great Thistle servant. Willie never got his coveted Scottish Cup medal, but there are none more deserving of this virtual version, 100 years on.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… BOB McFARLANE
Bob McFarlane

Maryhill-born BOB McFARLANE was one of three Queen's Park players who turned professional with Thistle in 1920, after Matt Wilson and before Jimmy Kinloch. I think it's a fairly sure bet that the (then) 33-year-old would have done so sooner were it not for the severe distraction of World War I. As a qualified engineer, Bob's skills were in demand for the duration of the conflict, and he served with the Royal Navy, returning to the football when it was all over.

Bob could play anywhere along the front five, and did so for Thistle, even falling back to right half a couple of times to help the team out. Most of his 66 appearances were as centre forward. The great problem of 1920-21 was the quest to find an effective replacement for record-fee departure Neil Harris; no fewer than 8 of them were in and out of the team as the season progressed. Bob made only 14 appearances in the 55-game campaign, but could point to his Scottish Cup record and make a claim that he was underplayed.

3 crucial goals in 4 games was his invaluable Scottish Cup contribution; the second round winner against Hibernian, the quarter final equalizer in the mud at Fir Park and the decisive counter against the Steelmen again in the second replay at Ibrox. Indeed, Bob scored 30% of our Scottish Cup goals despite playing in only 4 of the matches. He had the best win rate of all players too @ 75%. This was a guy who liked to get the job done; his is another virtual medal very well earned.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JIMMY KINLOCH
Jimmy Kinloch

It was a brace from JIMMY KINLOCH which settled the third round tie at Merchiston Park (home of East Stirlinghsire) in our favour. Along with Joe Harris and John Blair, Jimmy was an ever-present during our Scottish Cup odyssey of '21 and, crucially, it was another of his doubles which would settle the Semi Final, 2 months later. By season's end, he would sit atop our scorers chart, with 15 strikes in competitive action. In the pre-season, George Easton had been most keen on securing the services of the tricky inside right, a prolific scorer who was on great form with his club. The 22-year-old Queen's Parker was signing his first professional form, as were more than a few others, the poor old Spiders having being raided from all over Britain lately. Jimmy would have been pleased to reunite with his former team-mates Matt Wilson (midfielder) and Bob McFarlane (forward), both of whom had similarly made the move from Hampden to Firhill earlier in the year.

Jimmy was firmly positioned as an inside right specialist, although even he was coaxed into trying at centre for a handful of games in 20-21, famously bagging a hat-trick when doing so against his former club in December. This seemed only fair, as he had previously netted a hat-trick for Queen's against Thistle in 1919! He was never going to settle as centre though, not having the build to bustle in that role. However, he did score steadily for the Jags over the course of his 8 seasons at the club, and again finished as top scorer in season 1922-23. Such was his prowess as a wily craftsman, he soon joined the healthy Thistle contingent on the international stage, appearing along with Kenny Campbell in a 2-1 win over "Northern" Ireland in March, 1922.

An ailment which was affecting his match fitness forced him to retire early, aged 29, although the Kinloch-Thistle love affair was not yet ready to end. In 1928, as well as running his electrical engineering business, he joined the board of directors, where he would serve until the day he died, some 34 years later.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… WILLIE SALISBURY
Willie Salisbury

As you'd expect with a Scottish Cup winning side, there were many Thistle heroes throughout this campaign, and, at the Quarter Final stage, it was our young left-winger, WILLIE SALISBURY, who saved the day at Fir Park. A wee livewire, he was considered a clever exponent of the touch-line game, although, with his mercurial temperament, “Sally”, as he was affectionately known, could drive the Firhill punters mad, veering from the sublime to the ridiculous, one minute to the next. That Saturday night after Fir Park, however, he would be the toast of Maryhill, having rescued the Jags in a muddy Motherwell battlefield, where it would have been so easy to submit. With Thistle trailing 2-1 in the second period, Willie raced on to the end of a half-chance, and cleverly turned his opposing right back. This created a shooting opportunity for himself from close range, which, to the deep consternation of the majority of the 20,000 in the ground, he just managed to squeeze in at the post, out of reach of Rundell in Motherwell's goal. Well done Sally!

Having just turned 22 a couple of weeks prior to this, Willie was the youngest (known) member of the '21 squad (bearing in mind only 89% of the age slots are filled across our 11 games). The 19-year-old, a product of St Anthony's, had been interesting Celtic in the close season of 1918, but George Easton was sharper than Willie Maley in this field, and Salisbury became yet another in his hugely impressive list of shrewd acquisitions from the juniors. Indeed, several others from this Cup squad were so recruited; Joe Harris (Strathclyde), John Blair (Saltcoats Victoria), David Johnstone (Glengarnock Vale), Jimmy McMullan (Denny Hibernian), Alex Lauder (Ashfield), John Bowie (St Anthony's) and Andrew Kerr (Ardrossan Winton Rovers). He had a great career with Thistle, making over 360 appearances and scoring more than 60 goals in the process. Aside from the obvious highlight, Willie wrote himself further into our history books by playing his part in the first Partick Thistle side to finally get their hands on the (then) much-coveted Glasgow Charity Cup, the 6-3 final rout of Rangers in May, 1927, now entrenched in Jaggy folklore. Interestingly, Liverpool's secretary, (and soon-to-be manager) George Patterson, was in attendance that day; were notes taken on our wee left-winger I wonder?

Early in 1928, Willie netted a first class hat-trick for the Jags at East End Park, where the home side were whacked by 7 goals to 1. Several months later, the popular winger was rewarded for his 10 years of stellar service, Rangers providing the benefit opposition in a 1-1 draw at Firhill. “There have been bigger noises with the North-West Glasgow club, but never a more likeable chap” (DR). Just a couple of months later, in a move which typified George Easton's astuteness, the 29-year-old was traded off to Liverpool in return for a very handsome sum of £3,000. Consider that, within a year, they would ship him across the Irish Sea to Bangor for a token £100, and you get a sense of just how good an operator the Thistle manager was. After spells at Distillery and Shelbourne, Willie found his way home to the Firhill nest, where he played out his final footballing days with Thistle reserves. Speaking of his return in late February, 1933 the Dundee Courier acknowledged that the 34-year-old had lost an edge, but wrote: “'Sally' got a fine welcome, and played pretty well against Queen’s Park Strollers”. Those in attendance, were happy in their hearts that an idiosyncratic legend was back where he belonged.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… RAB BERNARD
Rab Bernard

Ah, 'Daft' RAB BERNARD, the quintessentially Thistle eccentric, renowned for dashing from his goal as an extra sweeper, and for taking penalty kicks, although, whilst a Jag, these were mainly confined to reserve games. It is said he may have taken as many as 50 in his long career journey and did so in the Thistle first team in a 4-0 win against Morton in February, 1921. That day he wrote himself into the Thistle history books as the only goalkeeper to have scored whilst serving between the sticks for the first team. He was standing in for Kenny Campbell on that occasion, and, splendidly, played his part in keeping the club-record clean-sheet run going, that being the 6th of 7 defensively perfect games.

Undoubtedly, Rab was an excellent option as the reserve goalkeeper at this time. With Kenny Campbell out injured for the Quarter Final replay against Motherwell, Rab played his one and only game in our '21 Cup campaign, and his contribution proved to be as vital as any in the squad of 18 would make, as reported in the Glasgow Herald: “Towards the interval, Motherwell were the more aggressive lot, and only Bernard's fine goalkeeping kept them from taking the lead. A splendid struggle for the mastery ensued after the crossover. Motherwell during the first 15 minutes kept up a sustained attack, but all their efforts to score were met with a solid defence, in which Bernard again played a prominent part.

Rab, in his mid-30s, had joined Thistle from Airdrie in the close season of 1919. In competitive action, he played in 39 of our 50 games in his first season. His hopes of a longer stint as Thistle's #1 were all but dashed with the arrival of marquee signing, Kenny Campbell of Liverpool, for a club-record fee of £1,750 in April, 1920. Almost immediately, Rab was loaned out to Dumbarton (albeit for 1 game), and, at the beginning of season 1920-21 he was again loaned, this time to would-be Central Leage champions, Bo'ness, his hometown team. In all, he would make 6 competitive appearances as a Jag this term, and a further 8 next season, before returning to East Fife in September, 1922, where more regular first-team action was promised.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JOHN BOWIE
John Bowie

Another of George Easton's junior success stories, left winger JOHN BOWIE was signed from St Anthony's in August, 1915, and was a big hit in his first season, finishing as second top scorer with 12. The 5' 7½ speedy wide man was a fine crosser of the ball, and had an eye for goal himself. A great consistency ensured that his place in the team was regularly assured, and his goal returns were in double figures for each of his first five seasons, two of which (1916-17 & 1918-19) featured John as top scorer. All of this was great going for a winger.

Alas, things started to go horribly wrong for the player in season 1920-21. A bruising Glasgow Cup encounter at Shawfield in September, resulted in a cartilage operation being required, so serious that it was feared he may never play again. In reality, he did recover to play again, although he never regained the consistent form which had made him such an integral part of the side in those first five seasons. That injury kept him out for 4 months, but he was back just in time for the commencement of our Cup campaign, news which was received as a great boost at the time; the Thistle fans were certainly missing his goals. John played in all three of the 2nd Round games against Hibernian, but, would you believe it, received a skull injury in the third of these, another bruising battle at Celtic Park, in which Thistle prevailed by one goal to nil.

In his return to action for the Quarter Final replay against Motherwell at Firhill, and in the next game at Dens Park, John's contributions were as a stand-in at centre forward and left half, but he couldn't find a way back into the full strength team, and it was now Willie Salisbury who was fully in control of that left wing berth. To go from 5 seasons in double figures to zero would have come as a major disappointment for everyone concerned, but there was a fair degree of sympathy in the mitigating circumstances, especially with regards to the head injury which had knocked his confidence. As a mark of affection, the directors sanctioned a benefit match for John, which came to be in April, 1922, when 2,000 turned out at Firhill to see him in action for the 202nd and final time as a Jag, a 2-2 draw against a Glasgow Select side. He had recently been loaned out to Dumbarton, and would seek out a fresh start at Luton Town in October, 1922.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… ALEX LAUDER
Alex Lauder

In our class of '21, it wasn't only Jimmy McMenemy who could lay claim to a previous Scottish Cup winners medal - ALEX LAUDER had done so back in 1917, albeit his was of the Junior variety!

Young Alex had started his career with St Mirren's junior side who, as strange as it may seem, were eligible to compete in the Junior Cup. His goals against Dundee Violet and Maryhill helped the wee Buddies on their way to the Cup that year, and our man was involved in the wining goal which defeated Renfrew in the final at… Firhill! From there, he stepped up to the senior St Mirren side, but never really got much of a chance before he was back in the juniors with Ashfield. George Easton saw potential though, and offered the 19-year-old terms. He arrived as an inside right in 1918, but adapted to inside left in order to accommodate others such as William Mitchell (1919-20) and Jimmy Kinloch (1920-21).

Alex appeared (73) and scored (11) steadily over his three seasons as a Jag, but never was his contribution so vital as it was in the ultimate replay against Motherwell at Celtic Park. By March, 1921, the hectic schedule had taken its toll on the 40-year-old legs of Jimmy McMenemy, so Alex took over for a while, and would play in this Quarter Final decider as well as the three semi final matches with Hearts. His goal against Motherwell was his final counter as a Jag - little did he know how crucial it would be, and that we'd still be talking about it 100 years later! Rundell, in Motherwell's goal, palmed out Salisbury's corner, and it fell to Alex who made no mistake from close range with a good shot, giving Thistle an invaluable lead on the hour mark.

Alex never made the final, and it seems a pity that he also missed the big photo opportunity when the cup was paraded at Firhill one week later. This seems all the more reason for his thoroughly deserved virtual medal today. In a bid to try and ensure more first team football, Alex moved on to Port Vale in September, 1921, and later served Stenhousemuir, St Bernards and Armadale.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… DAVID JOHNSTONE
David Johnstone

Although he never played in any of the first six games, DAVID JOHNSTONE was in place for the final five, starting with the Quarter Final decider against Motherwell. A Beith man through and through, the 23-year-old stepped up from the Ayrshire juniors game in August, 1920, having been identified as a great candidate for our right back slot, recently vacated by Tom Adams, who was stepping down from the senior game. He struggled to make the position his own though, and it was Tom Crichton who emerged as first choice in that area. In the 1921 New Years derby game against Third Lanark, David became the latest to be tried at centre forward and was the hero of the 1-0 win, deluding everyone that he may be the solution to the problem. With the benefit of hindsight, 3 goals in 64 appearances suggests that this was a false dawn, and that he was never an outright centre.

With the unexpected death of Willie Hamilton in August 1921, the Thistle midfield had to be reshuffled in 1921-22, and David came into his own at right half. He made 35 appearances during that season, 28 of which were in the middle line. With his 25% defender, 50% midfielder, 25% forward credentials, he gave the selectors a versatile option that could be relied upon to give 100%, whether making or breaking play. The emergence of Alex Lambie and Jimmy Gibson saw David muscled out of the side by 1922-23, and he returned to the juniors game, initially with Arthurlie, before finishing his career with several seasons at his beloved Beith, where he continued as club secretary from the mid-1930s.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… KENNY CAMPBELL
Kenny Campbell

From his earliest boyhood memories, KENNY CAMPBELL couldn't remember a time when he wasn't throwing himself around and, for him, playing in between the sticks (or the jumpers) was an enjoyable preference. A lifetime's dedication to his goalkeeping art paid dividends at every stage, and his reputation soared at Cambuslang Rangers, culminating in the 18-year-old starring for Scotland Juniors in a 2-1 victory over the auld enemy in the early summer of 1911. The scene of this early career highlight? Firhill! Thistle were keen on securing his signature at this time, but the competition was simply too much, even for the persuasive George Easton. It was the mighty Liverpool, champions of England in 1901 and 1906, who emerged as the most attractive option for the teenager, mindful that he already had family in the city, and that he could easily settle there. At Anfield, he would come to be idolised by many, and his performances were often singled out as being one of the main reasons for preserving the club's top-flight status. Kenny earned an FA Cup runners-up medal in 1914, being thwarted for the gold badge by Burnley. By all accounts, their victory was against the run of play, and the single winning goal was unstoppable.

Kenny's career at Liverpool was greatly hampered by his war service, although this later provided an unexpected opportunity for Partick Thistle and a future-path was set. In February, 1919, goalie Alex Stewart was representing the Scottish League, and we were on the look-out for a suitable stand-in for a League trip to Celtic Park. Reading the situation, one of Kenny's friends suggested to Thistle that they should send a wire to Kenny, who was, at that time, looking for an excuse to pay a visit back to Glasgow. On the pretence of a family illness, Kenny arranged for his leave, and, sure enough, guested for the Jags in a 2-1 loss at Parkhead. With his name in the papers, he was taking a chance, but got away with it. His discharge papers finally came through in the summer of 1919, and he was able to resume his career with Liverpool, where he was now in competition with Irish internationalist Elisha Scott for the #1 jersey. In his first season back he was rewarded for his reliable form, and gained the clean-sweep of home international caps, captaining the country against England. In that April 1920 match at Hillsborough, a draw would have given Scotland the championship, but a 4-2 half-time lead was squandered in a nine goal thriller and it wasn't to be. Just days before the game, Thistle had beaten Rangers in securing the services of Scotland's new number one. It was a real statement of intent, a club-record fee of £1,750 having been paid, and Kenny Campbell was now a bona-fide Jag!

Kenny would have two full seasons at Firhill, and had a huge influence on the club's history in that short time. Until his arrival, we'd never reached the last four of the Scottish Cup, but did so in two consecutive campaigns with him as custodian. In both of those classic seasons, Thistle were in touching distance of a third placed finish in the League. With 37 clean-sheets in 100 appearances, Kenny's oustanding record was way ahead of the club's average of about 23%. 23 competitive clean-sheets in 1920-21 was a club-record at the time (equalled in 1991-92) and, personally, Kenny's tally of 14 clean-sheets stands today as the top-flight record for any Thistle 'keeper. Thistle's total of 8 clean-sheets in the Scottish Cup of 1920-21 is likely to stand forever as a record for any Scottish club, as will Kenny's personal tally of 7 in that mean run. Kenny played the lead role in the club's all-time record run of seven consecutive clean-sheets in 1920-21, and his personal run of 5-in-a-row stood alone as the 'keepers record until it was equalled by Scott Fox, more than 90 years later.

Unfortunately, Kenny was never quite settled back in Scotland (his family remained in Liverpool all the while), and he hankered after another money move down south. To do so, he had to step back to the non-League, moving to New Brighton of the Lancashire Combination, thereby circumnavigating, in the first instance, the Thistle directors, who held his senior registration papers and were reluctant to let him go. Kenny would soon open a sports outfitter store in nearby Wallasey, which was to become his home base for the rest of his life. Putting financial motives aside, Kenny readily acknowledged that Partick Thistle afforded him the greatest honour of his career:

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Although admitting that I reached the goal (no pun meant) of my ambition in being selected to play for my country in its international games, there are in my possession two souvenirs of my football career of which I feel most proud. These are the medals I received for appearing in the final for the English Cup, and being on the winning side in the last round of the Scottish Cup. These are honours which every player sets as the pinnacle of his ambition. Yes, lots of people, I know, say that the professional football player hasn’t a soul above the monetary side of the game, but let me tell you this – I have never yet met a player whose heart did not yearn for the position of being able to say that he was one of the team which won the highest honour in the land.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… TOM CRICHTON
Tom Crichton

A manager's dream, TOM CRICHTON, a big Sanquhar-born laddie, a model of consistency, was able to play with both feet, and could be relied upon anywhere across defensive or midfield lines. Tom started out with Nithsdale Wanderers and played Army football during the First World War, joining George Easton's Jags in the new year of 1919, as soon as he was clear of national duty. Making his debut alongside Kenny Campbell in goals in February, he was straight in at the deep end at Celtic Park, tasked with taming the super-prolific Jimmy McColl, who, as fate would have it, became a team-mate a few years later. In his first year, Tom was utilised at right half, centre half and left half, and, in April, 1920, he filled in for several games at right back to help the team out. Soon, a partnership developed alongside the team captain, Willie Bulloch, so much so that “Campbell, Bulloch, Crichton” became the backline of choice in the classic season of 1920-21.

Ever the team player, Tom stepped up to the half back line when required, and covered for Willie Hamilton in the first two games of the cup campaign against Hibs. He turned out at right back in 8 of the other games, missing only the Quarter Final decider against Motherwell. He came in for praise throughout: “the defender stood out well in the more experienced Partick side” (vs. East Stirlingshire), “no one did better than Crichton in foiling the Motherwell attack at critical times” (the Motherwell replay), “It was naturally expected that the Hearts would come up smiling when they got the wind behind them, but there was nothing doing, thanks to the very fine defensive work of the Thistle. Both Crichton and Bulloch were very safe” (the first Hearts game), “Crichton, played a wonderful game against the ubiquitous Morton” & “Willie Bulloch was a noble captain, Tom Crichton a worthy lieutenant” (both comments re the final).

As if acknowledging the fact that he'd been a late starter through no fault of his own, the 30-year-old Tom was afforded a benefit match in late April, 1924, 4,000 watching Thistle defeat Liverpool, the English champions of 1923. The Daily Record was somewhat critical of the turnout, opining that such a low turnout was not befitting for such a fine fellow. Tragedy struck in a League game against Queen's Park in October, 1925, as reported in the Sunday Post: “Midway through the first half Tom Crichton, the stalwart right back, collided with Barr, the Queen's centre, and sustained a compound fracture of his left leg. The game was delayed for a time while doctors and ambulance men applied splints and dressings. The sight was too much for some spectators of both sexes, and more ambulance men were requisitioned to deal with quite a number of fainting cases.” Everyone's very worst fears were realised and Tom never played again, 236 appearances on from his debut, 6 years earlier.

Later in the same season, Tom became one of the select few to have received a second benefit game. The noble Queen's Parkers sent five men (four of whom had played in the horror game), and together with six Jagsmen the hybrid eleven faced a Glasgow Select which included Andy Cunningham of Rangers from the '21 final. This time, the Thistle fans turned out in force, around 10,000 of them providing a tangible benefit of some £500 for the player. He was a south country lad, but Tom had become a firm Thistle supporter. Not only did he continue to attend the games as a fan, he also did his bit as a talent scout. Sadly, Tom died in 1936, aged 43, leaving a widow, Janet.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… MATT WILSON
Matt Wilson

Young MATT WILSON had been with Queen's Park for some eighteen months when Thistle came calling early in the new year of 1920. He was one of three Spiders signing professional terms at Firhill that year, along with Bob McFarlane and Jimmy Kinloch, all of whom played their part in Thistle's Scottish Cup glory run the following year. Winning the cup with Thistle in his first full season was a dream come true for the young half back, whose role was to provide back-up as and when necessary for Thistle's first choice middle line. He would play around one third of the strenuous 55 game campaign of 1920-21, giving the directors an excellent option when it came to constantly refreshening the team inbetween Cup games in the heavy-load springtime. It wasn't until match day nine (the semi final replay against Hearts) that Matt made his first appearance in the cup run, allowing our internationalist left half, Jimmy McMullan, time to recover from a leg knock. Ironically, Matt was forced to retire for treatment for some twenty minutes in the second half, but returned heroically to play his part: “Wilson, if shaky at times in the first period, was very good in the second.

Matt would not have been expecting to play again in the Scottish Cup this season, but play again he did - in the final itself! It became clear on the morning of the big match that Willie Hamilton wasn't going to make it, but the directors had every faith that Matt could step up to the mark, after all, he had plenty of League experience by now. Indeed, in Matt's 9 appearances so far this term, only 3 goals had been conceded, a testament to his determined defensive style aligned with the fact that he would “bust-a-gut” for the cause. And what a shift he put in for the final… “Their reserve men, especially Wilson, played exceedingly well” said James Black of the S.F.A. “None did better than Wilson and Borthwick, the reserve halves” said the Dundee Courier. Willie Maley in The Sunday Post observed that “Wilson showed amazing virility for an untried youngster”. Matt's gutsy performance typified the whole team's spirit on the day, beating the odds through grit, determination and a sheer will to win. It was the making of him as a Jag and he became much more of a first team regular in the seasons to come, peaking with 39 appearances in the 43 competitive games of 1922-23.

With the emergence of the likes of Alex Lambie and Jimmy Gibson, Thistle's half-back line went from strength to strength in the mid-20s; Matt found himself labelled as utility man, but he yearned to play centre half and was granted a (financially beneficial) free transfer to East Fife late in 1924. After two years there, and a short spell at Clyde, Matt cottoned on to the emerging trend for Scottish players to try their hand in the North American game, and he emigrated to Canada, where he would spend the rest of his life, in 1927. He played with the New York Nationals in 1927 and 1928, even coming on once as a sub goalie. He'd played in the main three field segments whilst a Jag, but goalie? That was a career first! From there, Matt went on to play with Toronto Ulster United as the decade turned into the 30s.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… WILLIE BULLOCH
Willie Bulloch

Poetic observers of Partick Thistle history might label the 1910-1923 period as the great renaissance, whilst pragmatic students will astutely note that these dates precisely bookend the WILLIE BULLOCH era. Pre-Firhill, Thistle had been near-dead on the ropes, but bounced back determinedly after resettling in the North West.

This Larkhall lad started out as a half-back with his local team, Royal Albert, and was a big hit when he moved to Port Glasgow Athletic, so much so that he (and team-mate Bobby Steel) were snapped up by Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 1908. However, the 25-year-old Willie never got out of the reserves at Spurs, and soon returned home, where he landed at Kilmarnock, even sliding backwards to Royal Albert for a short loan spell. In the springtime of 1910, Thistle director Willie Lindsay was one who was paying attention, and persuaded the board that Bulloch was yet a real prospect, only temporarily down on his luck, and that he could be the answer to our full back problem, the recent experiment of playing McGregor out of position as a replacement for Bennett having been deemed unsuccesful. Talk about a visionary; to that director a debt is due!

Bulloch's first season at Thistle, playing as a left back for the first time, was a revelation as he and Archie McKenzie solidified the backline, and Thistle ascended to the heady heights of fourth place at Scottish football's top table. Incredibly, the Jags went through that entire top-flight campaign unbeaten in their new home, most certainly fit to be labelled 'Fortress Firhill'. It's a feat which still stands today as a unique occurrence. The Bulloch-McKenzie partnership went from strength to strength in the 1911-12 season which followed, Thistle again finishing fourth but this time returning 17 clean-sheets in competitive action, a new club-record at the time. In 1913, Willie inherited the captaincy from Alec Raisbeck, and would become one of the longest-serving in the role, culminating in his great honour at Celtic Park, 16th April, 1921. In September, 1919, Willie had been granted a benefit, receiving a share of the gate in the 1-0 League win at home to Kilmarnock. Sound the clean-sheet klaxon!

9 of our best defensive seasons in the top-flight were in the Willie Bulloch era, and never was this more in evidence than in season 1920-21, the only top-flight season in Thistle's history when less than 1 goal per game was conceded. In competitive action, a phemomenal 23 clean-sheets were kept, Thistle presenting an extremely tough proposition for any club side, any time, any where. Going into this classic season, Willie was at the "veteran" stage of his career, but was still very much able and close to his peak. He was carrying a few more pounds these days, but this seemed to be of benefit, if anything. Willie Bulloch captained the team with marked ability this season, with a steely determination that truly personified the class of 1921. In the second replay against Hibs, the 37-year-old put the club's cause before himself, playing through the pain of a broken nose, as Thistle held on grimly to their single goal advantage in "the battle of Parkhead". This led to him missing the East Stirlingshire game, but stand-in Borthwick and protégé Crichton did him proud, and the Jags remained on course.

Naturally, I'm pleased for all participants in the Scottish Cup campaign of '21, but if I had to single out two, it'd be the gaffer, George Easton, and the captain, Willie Bulloch. In Willie's case, he had given his all for 11 years, and had come close to first-team gold medals on several occasions, being so unlucky not to at least land one of them. All of that graft was justified on the day of days when Partick Thistle took possession of the national cup, reaching the height of their ambition and creating headlines all around the world.

He was quoted on occasion, but Willie never quite broke into the national team, although he represented the Scottish League in 1911 and 1914, and was selected for Third Lanark's "Scotland XI", playing in 15 of their 25 tour matches in the US and Canada in June & July 1921. He made 476 appearances as a Jag, had 7 "Top 6" finishes, was 4 times runner-up in the Glasgow Cup, twice runner-up in the Glasgow Charity Cup, oh, and was a Scottish Cup winner. After retiring as a 40-year-old player in 1923, Willie remained engaged at Firhill in a coaching capacity, cementing his status as a true club legend. His was a mighty chapter in the annals of Partick Thistle history.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JIMMY McMULLAN
Jimmy McMullan

What this 5' 6 left half lacked in height, he more than made up for with brawn, brain and tenacity. JIMMY McMULLAN was a sturdy and clever wee guy who had all the key attributes necessary for a first class midfielder, being a strong tackler, an astute reader of the play, and gifted in the art of finding the perfect pass. He was regarded as one of Scotland's finest half-backs of the 1920s, attaining infamy by captaining the "Wembley Wizards" in THAT 5-1 triumph of March, 1928. He was described as a quiet man, but always had a humorous twinkle in his eye, wise of mind and clear in purpose. Addressing his team-mates and countrymen in their hotel the night before the game at Wembley, Jimmy left them with one final instruction before bed - "pray for rain". Lo and behold, a steady drizzle the following day was just as the captain had ordered and his boys duly delivered!

Like many of his Thistle team-mates of the 1910s, Jimmy was familiar with the runners up medal, adding several of these to his silver badge gained with Denny Hibs in the Junior Cup final of 1912. However, greater prizes lay in store for this special player. Unfortunately, a Scottish Cup winners medal wasn't one of them! Jimmy missed two games of our eleven Cup ties, being injured for the Semi Final replay against Hearts and, heartbreakingly, the final itself against Rangers, having been injured whilst on national duty against England the week before. By way of some compensation, his international career was positively glittering. He would earn 16 full international caps for Scotland (8 whilst at Partick Thistle and 8 at Manchester City), captaining the country on several occasions. Following on from Neilly Gibson (1905) and Kenny Campbell (1921), Jimmy became the third player to captain Scotland whilst a Jag, doing so in a 1-1 draw at Wembley in 1924. In the final tally-up, he won FIVE British Championships with his country; in 1921, 1925, 1926, 1927 and 1929. This was a fair old twist from his unofficial international debut at Celtic Park on the 8th June, 1918, when Jimmy was the sole Scot to play FOR ENGLAND in a charity match AGAINST SCOTLAND. The English had suffered from call-offs and Jimmy was coaxed into playing. Scotland won 2-0, so our man was still a winner, despite being on the losing side!

The 26-year-old was given a mid-career boost in April, 1920, when he received a benefit, 5,000 turning out to see Thistle in a 4-4 thriller against an International Select. Although Jimmy had recently made his 250th appearance for the club in the Motherwell replay just 4 weeks earlier, no-one could possibly have dreamt that tonight might be his last game for the club but, as it soon transpired, that very much appeared to be the case. As previously stated, he missed the final through injury, and actually never appeared again in the 5 games which followed. What went on there, I cannot say, but Thistle supporters would have been dismayed to read the close season reports which emerged, intimating a financial dispute between he and the club. Disgusted, Jimmy refused to play the transfer game, despite an eye-watering sum of £5,000 being on the table from Newcastle. On a point of principle, Jimmy signed (as a player/manager) for non-League Maidstone United in Kent, where he was free of his senior registration papers, at once depriving Thistle of their best player and prize asset. In doing so, he sacrificed his international career, but got an early taste of management as compensation.

Thankfully, the Jimmy McMullan / Partick Thistle love/hate relationship didn't end there, an armistice being declared in the summer of 1923, whereafter Jimmy racked up another 100 appearances over the course of the next few seasons, naturally assuming the captain's role along the way. In February, 1926, Jimmy made a big money move to Manchester City, this time leaving with a great deal of goodwill and best wishes. He'd been a great servant to Thistle, and the club did very well to receive such a handsome fee of almost £5,000 for a 32-year-old player. Within a couple of months, Jimmy became the 13th Jag to play in an FA Cup final, but it was a runners-up medal again, Bolton winning the Cup for the second time in four seasons. Compounding the heartache, Jimmy arrived too late to save City from relegation. The Citizens bounced-back at the second time of asking though, and Jimmy added a Division 2 winners medal to his collection in 1928. He served at Maine Road until he was nearly 40, becoming a bit of a club legend as they re-established themselves in the top-flight, notably finishing 3rd in 1930. He never did win an FA Cup gold, again losing out (as a 39-year-old) in the 1933 final to Everton, three to nil.

Almost inevitably, Jimmy went on to manage a number of famous old clubs including Oldham Athletic, Aston Villa, Notts County and Sheffield Wednesday, eventually retiring from the game during the second World War. What a career, and what a character. 'The Rainmaker' was a Thistle man of the highest order.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… WATTY BORTHWICK
Watty Borthwick

In the Cup, WATTY BORTHWICK hadn't featured since the win at East Stirlingshire 2 months earlier, but he was back to play a key role in the final itself, filling the boots of internationalist Jimmy McMullan with distinction. Indeed, as astute observers noted, with his height advantage over McMullan, his inclusion might well have been a blessing in disguise.

Aged 19, Watty's first taste of senior football came with his local side, Leith Athletic, although he was disappointed not to command a regular first-team place at Old Logie Green. It took some years for his footballing career to find some momentum, but this it did in the mid-10s, with stints at Broxburn Shamrock, East Fife and Cowdenbeath. Watty was a Hibs supporter who actually lived on Easter Road and he got his dream move in the close season of 1916. Toughened and seasoned, the 26-year-old established himself as a first-team regular from the off, and served Hibernian as a solid right back for two full campaigns. He was regarded as a hard man to beat, who took a no-nonsense approach to defending.

Our regular right back of 1917-1918 had been Tom Adams, but it became apparent that ill health was going to severely limit his contribution as the next term came around. George McQueen (Rangers) and John Pearson (Tottenham Hotspur) were drafted in as emergency loanees, with Watty being cherry-picked from the Easter Road roster as the most realistic contender for the permanent place. All went well in his first season, as Thistle finished 4th, Watty featuring in 75% of the games. He'd've been half expecting it, and it came to be that Tom Adams returned for 1919-20, reducing Watty's game time to around 50% of the fixtures. As a charitable favour, Watty appeared in a couple of games for Dalbeattie Star in the Southern Counties Charity Cup at the tail end of the season.

At this stage, his reduced game time pretty much set the tone for his Firhill future, and he would have to content himself as a reserve, albeit he was viewed as a highly capable option as a stand-in, as and when necessary. And what a stand-in he proved to be in the gruelling and demanding 55 game campaign of 1920-21! Watty's game ratio was down to 33% this term, but he was invaluable when called upon, gaining plaudits for his 4 appearances in the Cup run, especially in the final itself. It was viewed as a major blow when Jimmy McMullan bowed out due to his ankle injury, but, on the day, Watty proved himself more than able for the challenge, imposing himself on the game, denying his more illustrious opponents the time and space, winning his aerial battles and, we believe, providing the wonderful crossfield assist for John Blair's winning goal.

Whilst some reports credit Salisbury, we rather think that the assist came from Watty, as per the Scotsman and Glasgow Herald accounts. McMenemy, protecting the ball in his own inimitable style, teed up a back pass which invited our stand-in spoiler to, uncharacteristically, burst forward down the left. Watty shimmied past internationalist Andy Cunningham, and lofted over a deep cross-field pass which was cleverly dummied by Jimmy Kinloch, who had spotted the unmarked run of John Blair, by now, dashing inside from the right wing. Blair's finishing drive, from 20 yards, served justice to the fine play and the rest, as the say, is history.

The Scottish Cup winners medal was possibly a career highlight for all eleven of the Jagsmen who took the field on 16th April, 1921, and that was certainly the case for Watty. However, frustrated at his "supersub" status, he hankered after a new challenge and, as I understand it, tried for Bristol City in a Division 2 match on 18th February, 1922, the Robins losing 1-0 at Sheffield Wednesday. He was back up the road to play his final game as a Jag at Dens Park two weeks later, before reuniting with Cowdenbeath for a short spell as 1921-22 drew to a close. I'm surmising that Watty was offered the financial benefit of a free transfer at this stage, as a thank you for his efforts at Firhill. He was back in England by the close season of 1922, joining Hartlepools United of Division 3 (North). Back again in the South of Scotland, the somewhat nomadic finale to his career drew to a close at Sanquhar, where, in season 1923-24, Watty played in the inaugural third tier of the Scottish Football League, assisting Nithsdale Wanderers in their quest. He played two seasons there, finishing on a high in 1925, as the title, and promotion, was secured. There would be no second tier twilight action for Watty though, as he retired from the game at that point, aged 35.

Watty settled back in Midlothian, where he latterly worked as a school janitor. He died of a cardiac arrest at his Loanhead home in 1969, aged 79, leaving a widow, Jane.


sc-1921-badge.png The Class Of '21… JOHN BLAIR
John Blair

Throughout my big Scottish Cup story piece, I tried to introduce each player at an appropriate moment in their individual campaigns and, when sketching out the plan, the first man considered for 'the last word' was JOHN BLAIR. It seemed only right that the great story ended with the great hero of the day; the man who put the ball in the Rangers net!

The Ardrossan-born right winger was a red-hot name in the junior game, starting and finishing his career with Saltcoats Victoria, and representing his country at that level on several occasions. He scored 33 times in his 6 seasons at Firhill, and would actually finish as our top League scorer, with 12, in season 1921-22. However, he was considered more of a provider than anything else, a “clever manipulator” and “extremely dangerous raider”. Had we been able to chart assists from this era, it would have been interesting to assess John Blair's tally, as he was forever being quoted in the build-up play, and his efforts undoubtedly helped us on our way throughout this campaign. The selectors certainly had him marked down as essential this season, starting him on 51 occasions, placing him at the very top of the appearances chart. John was one of only three - along with Joe Harris and Jimmy Kinloch - to feature in all eleven of the Cup games.

He had started the season in fine scoring form, with 8 goals before the New Year, but was on a barren run of 22 games without netting, albeit he had been making worthwhile contributions, notably assisting with the goals which secured Scottish Cup victories over Hibernian, in February, and Motherwell, in March. What a time he chose to end the scoring drought!

As we've read, 40-year-old Jimmy McMenemy, going for his 7th winners’ medal, was marshal of the day’s operation, nullifying threats and guiding others, and he teed-up a back pass which invited our stand-in spoiler, Watty Borthwick, to uncharacteristically burst forward down the left. Watty shimmied past internationalist Andy Cunningham, and lofted over a deep cross-field pass which was cleverly dummied by Jimmy Kinloch, who had spotted the unmarked run of John Blair, by now, dashing inside from the right wing. Having ghosted in behind the high lying Rangers backs, John was now in with a big chance, and his culminating touch, from some 20 yards out, served justice to a fine move. Thistle’s outside right kept his head at the critical moment, “delivering the parting and successful shot with admirable coolness and judgement”, and the ball nestled just inside the post of the Rangers ‘keeper who, like his defenders, also seemed to be taken by surprise.

James Bowie, the Rangers left-half, later stated that the thing he regretted most in all of his career as a player was the “trifling accident to his knickers” (his elastic broke) which caused him to leave the field for a moment or two, twenty minutes into the game. It does seem to stack up with the reports that our man was able to ghost in for a clear opportunity. Frankly, we'll take all the luck we can get.

From John's point of view, he put himself in a great position to have that one shot at glory, and he took it like a champ. John Blair - eternal Partick Thistle legend!



Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 18-Apr-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 06-Sep-2021.

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