Willie Ferns
Willie Ferns
Willie Ferns
● Willie Ferns, 1966

born in Scotland

William Ferns was born in 1941, in Glasgow. *

The 5' 9 (11st 2lbs) forward signed for Adam McLean's Thistle on Monday, 24th August, 1959, having most recently been with Greenock Juniors.

Aged 18 or 19, he made his debut appearance on Wednesday, 11th May, 1960, in a 2-0 neutral-venue defeat against Rangers in the Glasgow Charity Cup.

There were no goals for Willie during his spell with Thistle.

He played his last game for the club on Saturday, 3rd September, 1960, in a 4-0 defeat at home to Third Lanark in the League Cup, having appeared as a Jag on 3 occasions.

Willie's club-list included Greenock Juniors, Partick Thistle, Liverpool, Hamilton Academical, Cheltenham Town, Gloucester City, Stourbridge and Lydbrook Athletic.

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Bio Extra

It's likely that David Meiklejohn was the man who wanted to promote this young inside forward from the juniors, but we'll never know. Willie signed on the Monday, just 2 days after Meiklejohn had tragically collapsed and died from a heart-attack at Broomfield on 22nd August 1959. Not many players get handed their debut in a cup final at Hampden Park, but manager Willie Thornton decided that would be the best plan of attack to develop young Willie. Just 8,296 were there for the midweek Charity Cup final against Rangers in May, 1960.

A match of dreadful mediocrity” said the Herald. Rangers scored following a dummy at a corner (5) and again (78) looking suspiciously off-side. With Smith missing and Hogan and Brown both injured early on, Thistle were up against it. A magnificent save denied Willie a goal on his debut (89) but it was a meek end to the season.

As fate would have it, Willie's second appearance came in a cup tie against the other cheek, and this time there was great joy to be had as Thistle triumphed by 2 goals to 1 in front of 17,000 at Celtic Park in the League Cup. Celtic should have built a solid lead early on but Smith scored when he ran some distance and his shot hit the bar and went in via the keeper's back (10). He lobbed the keeper from 18 yards for a 2-0 h-t lead. Celtic's fight-back saw some magnificent goalkeeping by Freebairn, and he was beaten only once (73).

By co-incidence, Willie's third and final match in the first team was another Glasgow derby. Keeping his place from the midweek win at Celtic Park a few days earlier, Willie lined up against Third Lanark for the final League Cup section game. 10,000 were at Firhill and they could watch in disbelief as their heros turned zeros - it was all over in 10 minutes! Thirds took the lead (shot under Freebairn's body, 6), hit the post and scored again (8). Ex-JAG McInnes showed how one-sided it was (10) then Hogan cleared off the line. Thistle's forwards (with 3 fringe players) seldom threatened and poor defending led to the 4th goal (57) at which point the game died.

Willie was confined to the reserves for almost all of his time at Thistle, and was granted a free transfer in April 1961. Surprisingly, he got fixed up with Liverpool for the start of 1961-62, but within a few months landed back in Scotland with Hamilton Accies. He did well at the second tier outfit, netting 17 goals in 41 first class appearances in a year of action spread over 2 seasons.

Willie signed for Cheltenham Town in November 1962, and this time his move down South was permanent. England became his home country for life. Gloucester City (2 spells), Stourbridge and Lydbrook Athletic were his clubs post Cheltenham, and he finished his career with 6 seasons at Gloucester City from 1968-69 onwards, where he racked up almost 200 appearances and scored 36 goals. Still living in Cheltenham, Willie was still going strong at 78 when a newspaper article was done in 2019.


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