The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan
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BRAVE CALLS FOR 1920-21

We'll meet all 18 of the '21 squad members in due course, but before we press on with the Scottish Cup action, let's take some time out for a little background. We review the main aspects of this season's transfer business, meet the gaffers, briefly touch base with our internationalists, and take stock of the campaign so far.

Neil Harris

A very strong home record offset by very poor away form had been the frustrating mid-table story of 1919-20, although the sensational exploits of Neil Harris (pictured) were a real bright spot, as the centre forward became the first Thistle player in history to break through the 30 goals-per-season barrier. Almost inevitably, this set alarm bells ringing all over Britain, and the directors felt it would be prudent to listen to the offers. Bristol City were particularly keen to pair him with his big brother Jack (himself an ex-Jag), but, understandably, the bidding war proved to be too hot for the reds. The valuation of George Easton's astute capture from Vale of Clyde in 1913 had now been optimized, and the £3,300 received from Newcastle United in May, was probably the right deal to strike, as much as it pained the supporters. After all, this was very close to a world record transfer fee at the time, and was certainly a new club-record.

Talking of which, Thistle were thinking big these days; just before the Neil Harris deal was struck, we had splashed out a club-record fee of £1,750 to bring goalie Kenny Campbell (Liverpool) to Firhill. Within 2 days of signing in April, 1920, Kenny became the first player in history to be capped against England as a Jag - the preserve of the elite! Perhaps the directors knew that the Neil Harris deal was imminent and this loosened the purse strings?

Thankfully, Harris was the only notable departure, although it was touch and go for a while, as tough negotiations with left-winger John Bowie (second-top scorer in 19-20 with 12 goals) and left half Jimmy McMullan (who had recently won his first Scotland cap) were relayed via press briefs during the summer.

As ever, George Easton was on the case in the junior field; both Andrew Kerr (centre forward, Ardrossan Winton Rovers) and David Johnstone (right back, Glengarnock Vale) would see plenty of action in the forthcoming campaign, as would 22-year-old Jimmy Kinloch of Queen's Park, a tricky inside right, who was signing his first professional form. Poor old Queens were being raided from all over Britain at this time. Jimmy would have been pleased to reunite with his former team-mates Matt Wilson (midfielder) and Bob McFarlane (forward), both of whom had similarly moved from Hampden to Firhill earlier in the year.

Jimmy McMememy

The transfer deal which made most headlines this close-season was struck on Monday, 21st June, 1920, as 39-year-old Jimmy McMenemy of Celtic (pictured) put pen to paper at Firhill. 11 Scottish titles, 6 Scottish Cup wins and 12 Scottish caps (the most recent just 3 months ago) was the Jimmy McMenemy 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. From Dundee to Liverpool to Edmonton(!) interest was piqued:

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McMenemy has gone to Partick Thistle on a weekly wage, the amount of which, it is understood, when it becomes public property, will make many wish they were football players. Money would seem to be very plentiful at Firhill. (DET)

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After Kenny Campbell, 'Napoleon' McMenemy. Partick Thistle seem to be 'cutting some ice', even though their capture of the famous Celt falls short of being a first class football sensation. (EJ)

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It is stated that sundry other clubs were vastly disappointed to learn that Partick Thistle had persuaded 'Napoleon' to 'cross the Alps' of Glasgow. He seems to have been as much sought after as a young player of ability, with his whole football life in front of him. (LE)

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Manager Easton has had the matter in hand for some time, and personally he never had any doubts as to a successful carrying through of the important and free transfer. (SDT)


This was a close-season of brave calls, but the risk factor would prove to be well calculated.


sc-1921-badge.png Meet the gaffer
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.

INTERNATIONAL PEDIGREE

International pedigree


From the left we see Kenny Campbell (with New Brighton, 1922), Joe Harris (with Newcastle, 1929), Jimmy McMullan (with Thistle, 1924) and Jimmy McMenemy (with Scotland, early 1900s). They won 38 caps between them, which was good going considering Scotland only played 3 games per season in this era. I should point out that, further to his impressive first season as a pro, new signing Jimmy Kinloch would also win a cap in 1922. I couldn't find a full length photo or I'd have stuck him in there!

Thistle's half-back line of Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton and Jimmy McMullan was regularly acclaimed throughout the season, manifest in the number of caps won. Indeed, in season 1920-21, Partick Thistle, with seven player appearances on the international stage, were Scotland’s most capped club side.


sc-1921-badge.png Meet the 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.

TIGHT AT THE BACK

table-1921-01-30.jpg


So this is how the table looked, just ahead of our opening Scottish Cup fixture at Easter Road. It's incredible to think that we'd played 30 League games before the marathon Cup run had even begun. By the end of season 20-21, Jags would have played 55 competitive games, setting a new club-record, only re-set once, in season 1963-64, when a European adventure as well as League Cup and Summer Cup groups led to a mind-boggling 56 competitive game campaign.

We were sitting comfortably third, despite having won only 1 of the last 6 League games. Defensively, we had conceded less than 1 goal-per-game, something which was unheard of in our League history to date. Much credit for this is due to the star signing, Kenny Campbell, in goals, as well as captain Willie Bulloch at the back alongside Tom Crichton, and the aforementioned much lauded half-back line of Harris, Hamilton and McMullan.

Top Scorers Chart 20-21 (@ 30-Jan-1921)

9 Andrew Kerr
8 Jimmy Kinloch
8 John Blair
4 Willie Salisbury

Goals were beginning to dry up, but two of the new boys were at the top of our chart. We were getting by, but who knows where we might have been if last season's 31-goal striker had still been in place?

Anyway, next stop Leith. Bring on the Hibees!

sc-1921-badge.png Scottish Cup Winners 1921
scottish-cup-1921.jpg

back: Sandy Lister (trainer), Willie Hamilton, Tom Crichton, Kenny Campbell, Jimmy McMenemy, Matt Wilson, John Bowie, Watty Borthwick.
middle: David Johnstone, Jimmy Kinloch, Joe Harris, Willie Bulloch, Jimmy McMullan, Bob McFarlane.
front: John Blair, Willie Salisbury.

(PTS)

Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 29-Jan-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Apr-2021.

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