The Day The Scottish Cup Came Up To Maryhill

by William Sheridan



● Ibrox, 1920 (SP)

Thistle v Hearts preview

And so, it was time for the biggest game in Thistle's 45-year-old history so far. In the last four of the Scottish Cup, it's Partick Thistle, first-time semi-finalists, versus Heart of Midlothian, 4-times winners in 1891, 1896, 1901 and 1906.

Having been rested for the goalless midweek League tussle with Motherwell, Joe Harris was back in for Matt Wilson at right half and David Johnstone got the nod over Bob McFarlane in that troublesome centre forward's role. Again, the younger legs of Alex Lauder were preferred to those of Jimmy McMenemy in the inside left role. Hearts were also showing two changes from the side which had lost 3-2 at Celtic Park last Saturday, Bob Preston coming in for Willie Porter at centre half, and Willie Wilson taking over from John Murphy in the inside left role.

Both League games between these two took place in January, where a late home penalty at Tynecastle proved to be the only goal over the 180 minutes. Outwith the 'Old Firm', everyone was taking points from everyone in the League, where only 8 points separated 3rd place from 14th. In the Cup, Thistle had taken 6 games to overcome Hibs & Motherwell, whilst Hearts needed 3 bites at Clyde.

We were back at Ibrox, scene of our Quarter Final triumph over Motherwell. However, any thoughts of a psychological advantage were levelled by the fact that Hearts had emerged from Celtic Park with a fantastic 2-1 victory in the same round. Hearts were installed as clear favourites in the tie, but, as we've already seen, nothing could be taken for granted in what was a very tight and competitive season in the Scottish game.

competition-2.png Scottish Cup Semi Final
ft.png Partick Thistle 0 Heart of Midlothian 0
date.png Saturday, 26th March, 1921
crowd.png 35,500 @ Ibrox
partick-thistle.png Kenny Campbell, Tom Crichton, Willie Bulloch, Joe Harris, Willie Hamilton, Jimmy McMullan, John Blair, Jimmy Kinloch, David Johnstone, Alex Lauder, Willie Salisbury
heart-of-midlothian.png Alex Kane, Paddy Crossan, Jock Wilson, Jock Ramage, Bob Preston, Robert Birrell, Angus Meikle, George Miller, Arthur Lochhead, Willie Wilson, Jack Sharp
mh-referee.png Tom Dougray (Bellshill)
Jocky Simpson external-link.png, 27th March, 1921, Sunday Post

I will admit quite readily that the wind was largely responsible for the poor standard of football served up at Ibrox. At one period, during the first half, it developed into a hurricane, but really I was very disappointed with the game, and more particularly with the general display of the Hearts. They were nothing like the enterprising side I saw beat the Celtic, even if they were lucky to get the better of the Parkhead men. Several times, especially in the first half, it struck me that the Edinburgh men were just a trifle overawed by the importance of the occasion, for they appeared, on being pressed, as they were, very severely — because the Thistle had the wind behind then — to be imbued with the idea of getting rid of the ball anywhere, and at any cost. Of course I know that with the driving wind in their favour, Partick Thistle were at a distinct advantage, but even so, the Firhill team played with considerably more confidence, and with a better understanding. Still, whilst I considered that the Thistle were a better side, and here I might say that if they had won the match I should not have grudged them victory (despite the fact that later in the game their opponents showed improvement), I thought that the Firhill team hardly made the most of their chances.


When it came to the supreme test they lacked an old head. Steadiness was required, and it was lacking, but what I am now saying must not be allowed to detract from the merits of Kane's exhibition. Kane stood between his side and defeat on several occasions. Both Salisbury and Johnstone brought the very finest out of Kane. I don't know whether Johnstone is a centre forward or a full back. I saw him play in the rear rank against Motherwell. He did well. He did quite well in the attack yesterday. His best spell was in the early stages of the game. He nearly put paid to the Hearts' account, thanks to his dash and enterprise. It was very seldom the Hearts got on the attaek at all in the first half. Their defenders were very shaky, and in their desperate efforts to clear they ballooned the ball far too much, with the result that the ball, aided by the wind, came back again and demanded second clearances. Of course. in these circumstances, it was rather too much to expect the Hearts' forwards to get into stride, but when they did show promise, the quintette never worked together as a five.


Mind you, I thought that Hamilton held Lochhead very well, and whilst Miller put in a tremendous amount work he roamed far too much, whilst Willie Wilson never touched anything like that form which he displayed against the Celtic. Now and again he tried to open out the game with nice long passes, but other times he did the wrong thing, and in any case there seemed to be a total lack of a proper understanding in the Hearts' attack. Birrell did not seem at all comfortable in the the half-back line for some time, and, by the way, it occurred to me that it was rather hard lines on the Hearts' left back that he should have to figure in an unfamiliar position just at this stage when honours are hovering around. But, later, Birrell came out of his shell, and did quite well in trying to get the left wing ahead, and later still in assisting in attack - one of his long shots was a rather hot handful for Kenny Campbell.


Whilst I was much disappointed with the forward play as a whole, I must single out Blair. He played very well throughout the game, and I am of the opinion that if the Thistle had paid more attention to this winger they might have come away from Ibrox ready for the Rangers. Now, Salisbury, whilst forcing things a bit early in the game, was not at all convincing in the second half. Of course, he was handicapped by an injury, but when he got the hall, and it was pretty frequent, he tried to do the seemingly impossible, namely beating Crossan, instead of crossing the ball quickly. The result was that Johnstone seldom got a ball back again after sending it to the wing. Then Lauder dropped back too much, but here I am dealing with the forwards again. 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, and Harris shared honours with McMullan in tenacious tackling and nice placing. McMullan got a rather nasty knock, after which he was not quite so effective. Further, I thought that he was inclined to hang on the ball a little too long.

Kenny Campbell had a little more to do, of course, this half, but he did all that was required of him. The best thing Lochhead did was to twist round, after securing possession in a melee, and send in a ground shot at an acute angle. It was not travelling so very fast, but it might have settled the issue. It called upon Campbell to make a full length dive. A goalkeeper just a shade less vigilante might have found himself beaten. Partick Thistle, against the wind, made a slightly better show in attack than the Hearts, with the elements against them, but the finishing generally was only very mediocre. Still, there were several occasions when Blair, as the result of rather smart dashes on the right wing — and on one occasion he was aided by Harris — was responsible for Kane being drawn from his goal to make some very convincing clearances. Really, I cannot write too well about Kane. Not only did he deal with a number of troublesome shots very smartly, but his judgement in coming out to relieve tension was sound, and most encouraging to his side.


There were a number of corner kicks, bur despite the disposition of most of the playars to put the ball too much in the air at other times, the wingers most times took the corner kicks in a very tame, flat way. Sometimes I think that certain wingers don't realise the great advantage of a corner kick. I know it is easy to send behind when trying to cut it fine, but, dear me, when you see a ball put aimlessly towards midfield, well, it's pitiable, to say the least about it! Yesterday Blair rather spoilt his show by taking a corner kick badly. It was very nearly on time, and well taken it might have yielded tha desired result. I must give credit to the Hearts' defenders for their work in the second half. Crossan was very sound, and if Wilson was not very orthodox, he was most effective. Ramage put in just a little too much vigour, and Preston played very strongly, especially against the hard-working Kinloch. In the last stages, Meikle was a bit unlucky with one or two of his tries, and W. Wilson gave Kenny Campbell a bit of hot stuff near the post.

Candidly, however, it looked to me as the second half wore on than the players were inclined to think a replay was somewhat likely. They played without showing any great enterprise — it was a case of bundle the ball anywhere, particularly out of the playing area. Well, I suppose they could not be blamed for playing safe, because, really, you required to be on the field to realise that the elements were totally at variance with our national game. The attendance was approximately 40,000.

● Thistle appear in their first-ever Scottish Cup Semi Final. It goes to a replay.
● 9 consecutive competitive appearances for Willie Salisbury, 8th Apr 1922 to date. (Longest run since: Tom Crichton - 11 games, 22nd Jan 1921 to 8th Mar 1921. Club-record: Jock McTavish - 61 games, 15th Nov 1913 to 6th Feb 1915.)

sc-1921-badge.png Meet the squad… KENNY CAMPBELL
Kenny Campbell

From his earliest boyhood memories, Kenny 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:


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.


65,000 were at Parkhead to watch the grand re-match of last season's semi-final, Celtic's Willie Maley reporting that nearly 64,000 of these were paying customers. Less than half that number would attend the same venue for the final in three weeks time, but we'll have more on that later. This year, there was to be no repeat fairytale for the Coatbridge side, as Rangers dominated from start to finish, the front rank coming in for particular praise. “I rather fancy Rangers are going to lift the Cup now” opined Andy Aitken in the Sunday Post, not unreasonably. We shall see…

Partick Thistle 0 Heart of Midlothian 0 (35,500 @ Ibrox)
Rangers 4 Albion Rovers 1 (65,000 @ Celtic Park)



Partick Thistle 0 Celtic 1 (SFL - game 36)

A harsh winter and an exceptionally high number of Scottish Cup replays meant that many in Scottish football were running behind schedule, and the S.F.A. had granted permission for an extension to the season. Certainly, the pressure was on to play catch-up, but who could have grudged Thistle had they sought a postponement for this one? On this Easter Monday, a round of Glasgow derbies had been scheduled for the 'Spring Holiday' as it was known, taken in Glasgow but not in Edinburgh, a situation which was hardly ideal for Thistle in the midst of such an arduous and important Cup campaign. Here we were, just two days on from our Semi Final battle with the Hearts, and just two days before the replay, having to face up to the mighty Glasgow Celtic in League action. Meanwhile, our opponents could rest up, and reap the benefits of 4 full days of recovery time. Needless to say, we were not going to force that stress upon the players, so EIGHT changes were made to the starting eleven, the points almost being willingly surrendered pre-match for a greater cause.

IN: Watty Borthwick; Bob McFarlane; Matt Wilson; Fred MacLachlan; Ralph McIntosh; Andrew Comrie; Harry Harper; John Bowie
OUT: Willie Bulloch; Joe Harris; Willie Hamilton; Jimmy McMullan; John Blair; Jimmy Kinloch; Alex Lauder; Willie Salisbury

Adding to Thistle's hassles, the ongoing groundworks at Firhill necessitated a switch of venue, with a large derby crowd being expected. Where did we end up playing? Yep, you guessed it, we were back to Ibrox for the third time in two weeks! As it turned out, this makeshift eleven gave a decent account of themselves, even if it was yet another blank on the scorecard. On a quagmire of a pitch a single goal (26) was enough to win the points. Thistle were dangerous on the break but Celtic had most of the play. The defence, starring Campbell & Crichton, was, yet again, solid.

We've now had plenty of practice at Ibrox. Bring on those Jambos!

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, 26-Mar-2021.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 06-Sep-2021.

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