The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan



Fir Park
● Pre-match (BP)

Well v Thistle preview

Both of these Quarter Finalists were in the hunt for their first ever Scottish Cup trophy, and, with Kilmarnock's success in 1920 still fresh in everyone's mind, the notion wasn't entirely fantastical. There was much excitement pre-match, with talk of a "ground record" being a real possibility, although, in the end, the attendance figure fell just short, largely due to the foul weather conditions on the day. In much of the central belt, morning snow made way for afternoon mud.

A rampant Thistle had seized the day in a 4-0 rout at Fir Park back in September, but the hosts had improved greatly since then, and were now in the top half of the League, just 6 points behind the high-flying Jags. The North Lanarkshire side had been particularly impressive in finally ousting Ayr United by 3 goals to 1 just a few days earlier, and were installed as slight favourites going in to the match. They were unchanged from Wednesday - but would their legs hold?

Captain Willie Bulloch had just about recovered from his nose break at the battle of Celtic Park (versus Hibernians) 2½ weeks earlier, and he was back in his favoured left back slot. Utility man David Johnstone, who had stepped in at right back in last week's League draw with Kilmarnock, dropped out, with Tom Crichton switching back over from left to right back.

Also stepping aside naturally in the selection process were Rab Bernard, Fred MacLachlan & Matt Wilson, making way for those who had helped Scotland to victory at Belfast last weekend; namely Kenny Campbell in goals as well as Joe Harris and Jimmy McMullan in the middle line. This was very much the full-strength Thistle team of the moment, even if the season-long dilemma of who to play at centre forward did continue to haunt the directors. Today, the emphasis was on experience.

Down at Aintree, the 80th Grand National was being won by a 100/9 shot - the only horse to complete the course without falling (YouTube external-link.png). As predicted, and seemingly there in spirit, the Shaun Spadah of the 1921 Scottish Cup found the going tough at Fir Park, but stubbornly refused to fall…
competition-2.png Scottish Cup Quarter Final
ft.png Motherwell 2 Partick Thistle 2
date.png Saturday, 5th March, 1921
crowd.png 20,000 @ Fir Park
goal.png Hugh Ferguson (0-1, 6 mins); Bob McFarlane (1-1, 1st half); Hugh Ferguson (1-2, 1st half); Willie Salisbury (2-2, 2nd half)
motherwell.png John Rundell, John McDougall, Thomas McGregor, William Paterson, Craig Brown, Robert Stewart, Robert Lennie, Willie Rankin, Hugh Ferguson, John Reid, Bobby Ferrier
partick-thistle.png Kenny Campbell, Tom Crichton, Willie Bulloch, Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton, Jimmy McMullan, John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, Bob McFarlane, Jimmy McMenemy, Willie Salisbury
mh-referee.png William Bell (Hamilton)
Bob Mercer external-link.png, Sunday Post, 6th March 1921

Partick Thistle were just a trifle lucky in forcing a replay in their Scottish Cup tie with Motherwell at Fir Park. I have seen and played in many Scottish Cup games during the last fourteen years, but I hand out the bouquet to the Motherwell and Thistle players for serving up as strenuous a display under terrible conditions underfoot as any football crowd could expect. Another draw! I know there will be critics who will eagerly suggest that yet another game has been faked. I went into the players' dressing room at the close of the game, and nearly every man was "all out." Stop this nonsense about faked games. Now, I must sympathise in a way with Motherwell. I expected after their gruelling midweek game with Ayr United that the Fir Park players would be a trifle leg-weary. But what a revelation in the first half when playing uphill. The Motherwell boys were all over the Jags, and half an hour elapsed before Rundell got a shot to field.

Ferguson's early goal, snapped seven minutes after the start, seemed to disorganise the whole Thistle team. Nothing went right with the Jags for twenty minutes after this snap goal. The Thistle backs kicked flukily, the half-hacks (with the exception of McMullan) were easily outwitted, and Joe Harris found in Ferrier as elusive a winger as he has faced for a long time. With the Thistle defence so seriously overworked, the forwards waited in vain for the ball coming their way, and the Motherwell team looked easy winners, alike in football craft and stamina. McMenemy was the best Thistle forward, even although he tired a bit towards the finish, but the old touch was still there which made Napoleon a man to be feared by opposing half backs when playing in a Celtic jersey.


Thistle's equalising goal came along in rather simple fashion. Blair raced down the wing, getting the better of McGregor in a tackle, and, centring beautifully, the ball landed at McFarlane's foot. Then, with a simple tap, the Thistle centre piloted the ball into the net, well out of Rundell's reach. It was the only scoring chance the Thistle had so far, but McFarlane could scarcely have missed such a sure opportunity. Cup tie enthusiasm it was with a vengeance. The cheers of the Thistle supporters had scarcely died down when a roar indicated that Motherwell had again taken the lead. Fifteen seconds had only elapsed before Hugh Ferguson, following brilliant work by Lennie and Rankin, caught the ball, and with a short, low drive defeated Kenny Campbell for the second time, the leather hitting the inside of the upright in its passage into the net.


There were only three corners in the whole game, and not one in the first half. Thistle had two of the three, but nothing tangible in the way of goals came from any of them. Willie Rankin was the finest forward on view, and if there were any Scottish Selectors present they must have been impressed by a display of whole-hearted football for the full ninety minutes. Few of the 20.000 present imagined that Salisbury, when he rounded McDougall, was destined to draw a game in which Motherwell had, so far, easily the pull. The left winger raced on and sent in a low shot which looked like going behind, but to the consternation of the home supporters the leather plunked into the corner of the net. That ended the scoring, but, on the whole run of the play I say Partick Thistle were lucky to live to fight again at Firhill On Tuesday. Final result:— Motherwell, 2; Partick Thistle, 2.


Two players stood out head and shoulders in the game, and they both sported Motherwell jerseys. They were Rankin and Craig Brown. All through the game Rankin caught the eye for his elusive footwork, his acurate placing and his general craft as a thrustful forward. Time after time he sent his partner Lennie away with ideal passes, and Willie Bulloch had a sorry time with the clever wing during the greater portion of the game. At centre half Craig Brown, especially in the first half, subdued the Thistle forwards to such an extent that Rundell was only at rare intervals called up to handle. I was also favourably impressed by the play of Paterson and Stewart in the intermediate line, although when the Thistle buckled to in the second half I thought their work was not quite so impressive as in the first half. On the Thistle side it is not easy to single out the successes. Joe Harris could not get the measure of Reid and Ferrier in the first half, but the longer the game lasted Harris seemed to relish it the more.

Bulloch had an off-day for most of the game, and it was only when the Thistle drew level that he kicked with the vigour I have seen in years gone by. I must congratulate McMenemy on a lion-hearted display under conditions very trying to a veteran like the peerless Jimmy. The old internationalist, who sustained a nasty injury to his eye in the game, drew the opposing defence, and repeatedly slipped the ball out to his waiting partners. I unhesitatingly place McMenemy as the best Thistle forward, although I thought a lot of McFarlane for his dashes. The Thistle centre, however, had often to bemoan the absence of assistance when near the Motherwell goal, but he is speedy, and should come along nicely. After having the worst of the play throughout, Thistle almost won the tie offhand when Rundell was in difficulties right under the crossbar with McFarlane in attendance during the closing moments of the game.

I have seldom seen twenty-two footballers so mud-besplattered, so thoroughly exhausted, and bearing the marks of a streneous Cup tie as in the dressing rooms at the close of the game, and, whatever may be said about this drawn game outside of Motherwell, not a single spectator who viewed the play could suggest that there was the slightest suggestion of "fake" in this stirring Cup tie. I thought there would have been a bigger crowd, but I learned there was a lot of unemployed men in the Motherwell district at present, while the weather was also against a record for the ground being established.

● Thistle appear in their seventh Scottish Cup Quarter Final. It's the first of these to go to a replay.
● 10 consecutive competitive appearances for Tom Crichton, 22nd Jan 1921 to date, a new personal best. (Longest run since: John Blair - 25 games, 2nd Oct 1920 to 19th Feb 1921. Club-record: Jock McTavish - 61 games, 15th Nov 1913 to 6th Feb 1915.)

sc-1921-badge.png Meet the squad… WILLIE SALISBURY
Willie Salisbury

As you'd expect with a Scottish Cup winning side, there were many Thistle heroes throughout this campaign, and today it was the turn of our young left-winger to shine. 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. This Saturday night, however, he would be the toast of Maryhill, having saved the Jags in a muddy Motherwell battlefied, 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 ago, 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 who were there, were happy in their hearts that an idiosyncratic legend was back where he belonged.


The afternoon may have been spoiled by the weather, but there was still plenty of interesting action for the fitba' daft Scottish public to enjoy or endure, depending on their colours. In a round of surprises, Hearts came from behind to win at Celtic Park, immediately incentivising all other clubs. Celtic, after all, were the Cup experts, their name being trophy-etched on 6 of the last 11 occasions. “The Heart of Midlothian players had a rousing reception on their return to Edinburgh. Thousands of followers gathered at Princes Street Station, and deafening cheers were raised when the players alighted from the train. Very quickly the victorious team was surrounded and they had to submit to hearty congratulations. Kane was the object of special attention, and he was carried shoulder-high from the station.” (SP).

At Dumbarton, it was a miserable day for the home side, who had resisted the lure of the Rangers cheque book, and opted to play at Boghead. The persistent rain kept the crowd low and the result was never in doubt. At Dundee, the high hopes of the Dens Parkers were dashed, as last years surprise finalists, Albion Rovers, again reached the last four. As well as playing their 4th game in 8 days, the Coatbridge side played the majority of the second half with only nine fit men. It was a remarkable victory, and the homesters were left open to criticism that they'd underestimated their more determined opponents, as many before had done. Thistle and Motherwell would now meet at Firhill on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to clarify the last four ahead of Wednesday's draw for the semi-finals.

Celtic 1 Heart of Midlothian 2 (37,000)
Dumbarton 0 Rangers 3 (6,000)
Dundee 0 Albion Rovers 2 (12,000)
Motherwell 2 Partick Thistle 2 (20,000)

sc-1921-badge.png Scottish Cup Winners 1921

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.


Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 05-Mar-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 02-Apr-2021.

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