The King Of The Slams
The King Of The Slams

by William Sheridan

When Brian Graham shot Thistle ahead at East End Park early in April 2024 he completed a most unlikely set of league slams i.e. scoring repeatedly against the same team in the same season. Immediately, it got me to thinking about an old conversation on the WeAreThistle forum from a great many years ago (hi PTD!) in which such feats were ratified and named.

Here on our Archive, a 'list' page now exists which lays them out completely. You can marvel at those who (like Brian Graham vs. Dunfermline) have completed the super-rare 'Grand Slam' (scoring in all 4 same-season league games against the same opponent) and the equally rare 'Triple Crown' (scoring in all 3 same-season league games against the same opponent). Of course in the old days when leagues were bigger we only played once home and away once against each opponent, so these were christened 'Doublets', named after the popular west end bar, and why not? They used to advertise a lot in the match programme and it's nice to give something back!

At the time we also created the 'Hogan' named after golfer Ben Hogan who, in 1953, won 3 of the 4 majors in the same season. As you might imagine, this recognises those who got close to the ultimate quadruple by scoring in 3 of the 4 league games in any season. Finally, we came up with the 'Meatloaf', doffing the cap to those who registered 2 in 3 game seasons. Why? 'Cause 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

In this Partickle, I focus on the 3 main categories… and come to the extra-ordinary realisation that only one Jag in history had made it in all 3 lists. The same player has actually made it onto all 5 lists if you were to extend the query. In so doing, he played through the pain barrier of recovering from broken ribs!

The Doublets

Willie Paul
● Willie Paul the pioneer.

Partick Thistle began its great Scottish Football League adventure at Cappielow with a 3-2 victory over Morton on Saturday 19th August, 1893. Willie Paul, almost inevitably, scored Partick Thistle’s first-ever goal in this competition, just as he had done in the Scottish Alliance 2 years earlier; he seemed to have a special talent for being in the right place at the right time. With only 10 minutes on the clock he had notched a second. The sun was shining, and we were off to a flyer in our inaugural Second Division campaign with these two early goals and a third from Hope Robertson just before half-time giving us a 3 goal interval cushion. The travelling Partickonians - of which there many - were having a party, having a ball! We still have a lot in common with our forefathers.

Just 7 weeks later - on match day five in the league - Thistle received Morton at Inchview for the return fixture. The aforementioned 3-2 win at Cappielow was followed up by a 5-2 home win. You'll never guess who scored a brace again. Ok, maybe you will, since this piece is all about doublets, triple crowns and grand slams. Yes, it was that man again, WILLIE PAUL, who duly became the first to do the doublet i.e. scoring in both league games against the same opponent in the same season. Before the season was out there would be 5 doublets, JOHN M. HARVEY doing the needful against both Clyde and Glasgow Thistle, with WILLIE FREEBAIRN doing likewise against Motherwell and Glasgow Thistle. The Thistle of the Glasgow variety would soon give up. This town ain't big enough for the both of us. Talking of which…

… There can be little doubt that great goalscoring feats against the Old Firm are one surefire way of securing your status as a Partick Thistle legend. We've seen 13 Old Firm doublets across the decades from the 1900s to the 1960s, 5 against Celtic, 8 against Rangers. TOM HYSLOP was first to register the feat, doing so against Celtic in 1900-01. Thistle, newly promoted as champions, travelled to Celtic Park on match day one of that campaign, 15th August 1900. Played in sweltering heat, Thistle were excellent in the first half and Tom's goal, just on half-time, had the Jags 2 nil up! The dream start was not maintained, but we were happy enough with the 3-3 draw that transpired.

Sam Kennedy
● Sam Kennedy, king of Kings v Rangers.

In May, 1905, 2 goals from SAM KENNEDY helped Thistle on their way to a thumping 5-0 win over Rangers in the Quarter Final of the Glasgow Charity Cup - our record win against them which stands to this day. It was, in fact, Thistle's third consecutive competitive win over the Ibrox side, at the time another record for the history books, although it's been equalled a few times since. The one thing missing in all of this fine achievement was a League win. Thistle had now made 14 unsuccesful attempts to gain two SFL points against Rangers. That all changed at Ibrox on Saturday, 29th September, 1906…

… On the day, Thistle “moved to better purpose” than their opponents and big Sam headed home a splendid centre by the sprinting John Wilkie, giving the Jags a half-time advantage. In the eyes of the home support, normal service was resumed as a reshuffled Rangers improved in the second half, and the scores were eventually levelled after some time. Much to their chagrin, the lead barely lasted 2 minutes. With bustle and trickery, our hero got away and, shouldering off last-ditch challenges from Campbell and Jackson, he beat Newbigging with “a rousing shot”. It was backs to the wall from thereon as Rangers worked hard to divide the points, but Thistle held on for a famous League win over the light blues – at last! With this win, Thistle moved to joint 2nd in the table, just 2 points behind the leaders. We were firmly established as a decent top-flight club. In the return fixture at Meadowside in January, Sam became the first Jag to do the League double over Rangers when he put Thistle 1 up in the first half, the match finally ending 2-2. The bold Sam finally reached double figures in all competitions vs. the Govanites, the only Jag ever to do so.

John Wallace
● John Wallace, 'Doublet' specialist!

The undisputed King of the Doublet was JOHN WALLACE with a whopping 17 to his account and, even more remarkably, all of these were registered within the space of just 3 seasons from 1936-37 onwards. As Adam Powley's “Shankly's Village” tells, John was a nephew of Sandy 'Towey' Brown (Preston North End, Tottenham, Scotland etc) whose incredible goalscoring exploits were fundamental to Tottenham Hotspur winning their first-ever FA Cup final in 1900-01. And, just like his Uncle Sandy was for Spurs, John was a deadly marksman for the Jags, averaging 30 competitive goals-per-season until the outbreak of WWII ruined everything. He was top-scorer in 1936-37 and 1938-39. John was an expert penalty taker for us, converting 7 out of 7.

Willie Sharp
● Willie Sharp, Old Firm glow.

A special mention must go to NEIL HARRIS for registering two doublets against Rangers (1915-16 & 1919-20) but perhaps the slightly greater glow lies with Thistle's all-time highest goal scorer - WILLIE SHARP - who did the doublet over Rangers in 1948-49 and against Celtic in 1953-54, the only Jag in history to have done such a thing. Amazingly, Willie netted 20 competitive goals against the Old Firm for Thistle - that his scheming genius was never utilised by the Scottish selectors remains one of life's great mysteries.

We've seen just over 300 doublets across the years, but we thought that perhaps we'd seen the last of them on the last league game of season 1974-75 when DOUGIE SOMNER completed his double over Clyde, a 2-2 Firhill draw in December being followed by the same scoreline at Shawfield in April. League reconstruction would soon change the make-up of the Scottish football calendar, but Thistle's players did have one last chance at doing the double, with the First Division campaign of 1975-76 being restricted to just 26 games for each of the 14 competing clubs. Incredibly though, neither Dougie Somner or Joe Craig - ace marksmen both - registered a doublet for the league's champion club that season!

Around 45 years later, the shortened Covid seasons served up a few more 'Doublet' opportunities and DARIO ZANATTA (!) took advantage of the strange fact that we would play Inverness CT only twice in 2019-20, scoring in fine 3-1 wins at the Caledonian Stadium (September) and at Firhill (December) before the season descended into a farce on and off the park. The following season, BRIAN GRAHAM was another who took advantage of this small window of opportunity when he scored in both league games against East Fife, the Methil men being in the lower half of the split after the 10 clubs had played 18 games.

In his 2024 interview with the PTFC podcast external-link.png the #9 revealed how he was playing through the pain barrier of recovering from broken ribs when he netted (twice) in the 2-0 Firhill win over the Fifers in November 2020, the second of which (an exquisite chip) was one of his finest in the red and yellow.

But that's not even half the story, when you consider the events at Bayview on 6th April 2021. Third tier Thistle trailed by two goals to nil at half-time; there were rumblings there and then that we could be looking at a "sacked in the morning" scenario for manager Ian McCall. Brian Graham's goal and assist in the last half hour salvaged a point and was widely regarded by fans, players and management alike as catalyst for the near-miraculous about-turn in which seeds sown finally blossomed, and an all-time club-record points tally for any given month was achieved. The Jags romped down the home straight as Falkirk wobbled and collapsed. It'd be no exaggeration to say, this was one of the highest-ranked Doublets in terms of importance to the cause!

The Grand Slams

With Thistle regaining a place in the top-flight for season 1976-77 they would now play each league opponent 4 times per season, breaking with the 80-odd years 2-game tradition. The mighty 'Grand Slam' would prove to be a much tougher proposition - as the Stats clearly show. At the time of writing - 8th April 2024 - we've seen 304 Doublets, but only 4 Grand Slams!

Colin McAdam
● First 'Grand Slam' to Colin McAdam.

COLIN McADAM was first to complete the unlikely deed, netting in all 4 of the Premier League games versus Dundee in season 1979-80. 'The Beast', as he was affectionately known, terrorized defenders at the highest level, and was our top scorer that season with a mighty 25 goals in all competitions. As a wee boy he became my new hero after Dougie Somner had left. However, Old Rangers would simply buy anybody that they couldn't handle, and the big man was top of their most wanted list in the summer of 1980. Bertie Auld demanded £450K but Rangers offered only £40K, which was an absolute cheek. The first-ever transfer tribunal settled the matter at £165K, but it was another great loss to the club. The loss of Somner then McAdam (so soon after) gave me an early jolt in terms of the tough realities of being a Thistle fan.

28y, 0m, 11d goal.pnggoal.png 08.09.1979 Dundee [a] D2-2 (SFL Premier Division - game 4)
28y, 2m, 13d goal.png 10.11.1979 Dundee [h] L2-3 (SFL Premier Division - game 13)
28y, 4m, 8d goal.png 05.01.1980 Dundee [a] D1-1 (SFL Premier Division - game 19)
28y, 7m, 16d goal.png 13.04.1980 Dundee [h] W3-0 (SFL Premier Division - game 30)
Alex Burns
● Alex Burns, 2002-03 sensation.

17-goal ALEX BURNS was a revelation for the Jags in 2002-03, earning big points at places such as Pittodrie and Easter Road. And who could ever forget his magical hat-trick in the 3-0 Firhill win over Kilmarnock? Sheer wizardry! Remarkably, the wee man became just the second Thistle player in history to register a 'Grand Slam' for the Jags, the 29-year-old sealing the deal at Firhill in April 2003, contributing to a fine 3-0 win over Motherwell. Two Firhill wins and two Fir Park draws meant that all of the goals had big meaning for Lambie's miracle Jags in the (succesful) quest for top-flight survival after back-to-back promotions.

29y, 0m, 6d goal.png 10.08.2002 Motherwell [a] D1-1 (Scottish Premier League - game 2)
29y, 2m, 29d goal.png 02.11.2002 Motherwell [h] W2-0 (Scottish Premier League - game 13)
29y, 4m, 29d goal.pnggoal.png 02.01.2003 Motherwell [a] D2-2 (Scottish Premier League - game 24)
29y, 8m, 22d goal.png 26.04.2003 Motherwell [h] W3-0 (Scottish Premier League - game 34)
Kris Doolan
● Kris Doolan, indelibly inked in Thistle history.

2010-11 was the season in which KRIS DOOLAN truly made his mark in the senior grade, netting 18 times in competitive action, and finishing as joint-top scorer in the Division. Helping him on his way to these tallies was the third 'Grand Slam' in Thistle history, with 6 league goals being recorded against Stirling Albion all told. This was the shape of big things to come - where there was an opportunity to indelibly stamp his achievements in the Thistle history books, Kris Doolan would usually take it!

23y, 9m, 0d goal.png 11.09.2010 Stirling Albion [h] L1-2 (SFL First Division - game 5)
23y, 10m, 12d goal.pnggoal.png 23.10.2010 Stirling Albion [a] L2-4 (SFL First Division - game 10)
24y, 1m, 4d goal.png 15.01.2011 Stirling Albion [h] W6-1 (SFL First Division - game 17)
24y, 3m, 11d goal.pnggoal.png 22.03.2011 Stirling Albion [a] W3-0 (SFL First Division - game 27)
Brian Graham
● Brian Graham, stronger than ever at 36.

Anyone who thought that the 35/36-year-old BRIAN GRAHAM would be regressing in his goalscoring exploits during 2023-24 was very much mistaken, as the #9 ruthlessly racked up endless milestones in that department. Indeed, almost illogically, he increased his previous season goals tally for the 4th consecutive campaign! Scoring in all 4 league matches against Dunfermline not only gave him the accolade of just our 4th 'Grand Slam' man, but rocketed him to all-time joint-top scorer against the Fifers with 6 goals, alongside Davie McParland (1955-1967), George Smith (1955-1962) & Liam Buchanan (2007-2010).

His goal against the Pars on the 30th September moved the Jags back to 3rd in the table. Amazingly, 6 months later when the striker completed his slam at East End Park (6th April 2024), the Jags hadn't moved an inch from 3rd spot! Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that Brian's goal on that day meant that he had now scored in a 15th consecutive month for Thistle in competitive action, a unique club-record likely to stand forever.

35y, 10m, 7d goal.png 30.09.2023 Dunfermline Athletic [h] W3-0 (SPFL Championship - game 7)
36y, 0m, 23d goal.png 16.12.2023 Dunfermline Athletic [a] W2-1 (SPFL Championship - game 16)
36y, 3m, 0d goal.png 23.02.2024 Dunfermline Athletic [h] L1-3 (SPFL Championship - game 24)
36y, 4m, 14d goal.png 06.04.2024 Dunfermline Athletic [a] D1-1 (SPFL Championship - game 32)

The Triple Crowns

Relegation in 1982 meant that Thistle would, for the first time, play in an imbalanced league. Since 1976-77, Scotland's 14-team second-tier league had a 39 game calendar in which you'd play each opponent 3 times. Sometimes you'd have 20 home games, sometimes 19. We thought we'd seen the back of that unsatisfactory arrangement in the early 1990s, but we hadn't reckoned for the later horror of Covid 19!

Maurice Johnston
● First 'Triple Crown' to Super Mo, no surprise.

It was Thistle fans who christened him 'Mo Mo super Mo… super MAURICE JOHNSTON' and for very good reason. He was such a naturally gifted talent whose boots seemed to have a magnetic connection with the goal nets - and he knew no fear. It's not the reason he appears in this Partickle, but it's worth pointing out that Super Mo is the only Jag in history to have scored in 3 same-season league games vs. Rangers, and all as an 18-year-old too! Two of these - October 1981 & February 1982 - resulted in Thistle wins which was even better. Just as well for Thistle he was a catholic or they'd have had him signed by March. He gets the 'Hogan' award for that of course, and it comes as no surprise that MoJo bagged a 'Triple Crown' at the very first season of asking, his future-club Falkirk being the victims. It was a brilliant Firhill hat-trick which sealed the deal, marking his 20th birthday week in some style.

19y, 5m, 16d goal.png 29.09.1982 Falkirk [a] L1-2 (SFL First Division - game 6)
19y, 11m, 24d goal.png 06.04.1983 Falkirk [h] D1-1 (SFL First Division - game 33)
20y, 0m, 3d goal.pnggoal.pnggoal.png 16.04.1983 Falkirk [h] W4-2 (SFL First Division - game 35)
Gerry McCoy
● Gerry McCoy, 21 goals in 1988-89.

After having been spoiled with Dougie Somner, Colin McAdam and Maurice Johnston it took Thistle a while to find another 20-goal-a-season man, but GERRY McCOY - who used to haunt Thistle as a Falkirk and Dumbarton player - delivered an impressive 21-goal return in 1988-89, becoming just the second Jag to register the 'Triple Crown'. Somewhat depressingly, the Jags had lost 6 times to Meadowbank Thistle in the 1980s, so it kinda felt that the tide might be turning when we started to get on top of them again as the decade drew to a close, with Gerry's goals earning 5 points out of the available 6. God, how we hated that stadium. Altogether now… Mea-dow-bank…

27y, 10m, 5d goal.png 29.10.1988 Meadowbank Thistle [h] D1-1 (SFL First Division - game 12)
27y, 11m, 16d goal.png 10.12.1988 Meadowbank Thistle [a] W2-0 (SFL First Division - game 18)
28y, 3m, 22d goal.png 15.04.1989 Meadowbank Thistle [h] W2-1 (SFL First Division - game 35)
Calum Campbell
● Calum Campbell, top scorer in 1989-90.

CALUM CAMPBELL was another great signing by the astute John Lambie, who often seemed to revel in chaos as a tactic. Calum was signed from Airdrie just hours before the opening league game of the 1989-90 season. 2,915 were at Kilbowie for the 3pm kick-off and, by 6 minutes past, we had a new hero as our new striker had us one up already! Calum was red-hot for several months and easily finished top scorer with 18 goals for the campaign. It was disappointing to lose him after just one season, especially since newly-promoted Kilmarnock would be our league rivals in 1990-91.

23y, 9m, 5d goal.png 12.08.1989 Clydebank [a] W2-1 (SFL First Division - game 1)
24y, 1m, 19d goal.png 26.12.1989 Clydebank [h] D1-1 (SFL First Division - game 20)
24y, 4m, 24d goal.png 31.03.1990 Clydebank [h] W4-0 (SFL First Division - game 34)

April 2021 will go down as one of the most sensational short periods in the history of the club. Going into the month, third-tier Partick Thistle sat with 20 points, 8 behind the leaders, Falkirk. By the end of the month, an enormous 16 point swing in Thistle's favour completely reversed the situation, leaving Thistle 8 ahead of Falkirk! In all, 20 points were gathered in the calendar month - a new club-record haul, even when artificially levelling all eras to 3-points-per win.

The game on the 24th was crucial to the cause as Airdrie were also in with a shout for the title. When Shea Gordon's 31st minute header came off the bar, it was BRIAN GRAHAM who was first to pounce, and one nil was how it ended, the clean-sheet machine doing a grand job to ensure 3 massive points. 4 points in their next 2 games would now clinch an 8th League title for Partick Thistle.

As we've previously discussed, Brian Graham started the month with an out-of-era 'Doublet' and now here he was, just a few weeks later, ending the month with an out-of-era 'Triple Crown'.

32y, 11m, 1d goal.png 24.10.2020 Airdrieonians [h] W2-1 (SPFL League One - game 2)
33y, 4m, 4d goal.png 27.03.2021 Airdrieonians [a] W4-2 (SPFL League One - game 12)
33y, 5m, 1d goal.png 24.04.2021 Airdrieonians [h] W1-0 (SPFL League One - game 19)

It would take him a few seasons, but the full set was complete with his aforementioned 'Grand Slam' in April 2024. I say full set and that does also include the near-miss awards, with 3 Hogans and a Meatloaf in-between! No player in history has made 4 of those categories, never mind 5. Only Maurice Johnston and Kris Doolan have made 3.

To have arrived at Thistle as a 32-year-old and racked up all of the goals accolades that he has in 4 years is scarcely believable, and yet here we are. For all of the many and varied reasons discussed, there can only be one 'King of the Slams'…

Brian Graham
● Brian Graham, every slam going! (DW)

Publishing date An original Thistle Archive publication, 11-Apr-2024.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 28-Apr-2024.

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