Ye'll No' Believe Who Scored It!

by William Sheridan
Top 12




Saturday 4th November 1950
SFL Division A - game 8
Heart of Midlothian [a] W5-4

The 23-year-old Tommy was signed by Donald Turner in January 1947, and made well over 300 appearances between the sticks from April 1947 to April 1959. It was his Army career which was responsible for his late start as a footballing professional. In June 1944 Tommy was serving as a gunner in Burma, and received shrapnel wounds in his right shoulder which would trouble him for the rest of his days. That he was still able to make it as a goal keeper was testament to his strength of character.

To all intents and purposes he was a one-club man – as far as senior football goes – although this was somewhat spoiled at the very end after a reputation-battering 10-1 defeat to Dunfermline. Almost immediately, he was unceremoniously placed on the open to transfer list and would never again play for Thistle – it was a rather sad way to finish what had been a great career. As a Jag, some of his saves were described as world class and his ability was such that he pushed for international honours and was regularly quoted as a contender. Although he played for the Scottish League (vs. Irish League [a] W5-1, Sep ’52) and Scotland ‘B’ (vs. France ‘B’ [a] D0-0, Nov ’52) he was never quite able to displace Jimmy Cowan (Morton) or Tommy Younger (Hibs, Liverpool) as the Scotland No.1.

In Tommy’s time at Thistle, there was always plenty of competition for the number one jersey from the likes of Bobby Henderson, Alex Bell, Willie Smith, Davie Thomson, Freddie Renucci and John Freebairn – but, as his appearances tally suggests, his performances must have been consistently impressive if David Meiklejohn picked him so many times – his total was no mean feat during one of the very strongest decades in Partick Thistle’s history. Tommy played in Thistle sides which defeated Celtic (1951) and Rangers (1954) to lift Glasgow Cups. He also played in all three of the League Cup Finals against East Fife (1953), Celtic (1956) and Hearts (1958).

For all his great (and the occasional not so great) goal keeping endeavours, it might be reasonably argued that Tommy’s most famous game was one in which he ended up playing outfield in the left wing position. And what a story it was…

Both sides in todays’ game would finish Top 6 in this season. Pre-match, it was second placed Hearts vs. sixth placed Partick Thistle. There were 25,000 eye witnesses to one of the craziest games ever played in the Scottish Football League. Alex Stott gave Thistle an early lead and Conn levelled matters for Hearts. Then things got weird.

Following a clash which left him with a cut above his right eye, Tommy had to leave the field for treatment. His place was taken in goal by the always-heroic Jimmy McGowan, who kept a clean-sheet for the duration of his fifteen-minute stint. Tommy returned between the sticks but his vision remained impaired, and by half-time Thistle were trailing by 3 goals to 1. During the interval, it was decided that Tommy was incapable of playing on between the sticks, and Willie Hewitt took over as goalie. With no subs allowed in those days, Tommy was moved to outside left for the second half, purely for the nuisance value. What followed was one of the most sensational halves of football Thistle fans have ever witnessed.


On the hour mark TOMMY only went and actually scored. It was a good left shot too, which left ‘keeper Jimmy Brown with no chance. Now only 3-2 to Hearts, Thistle had a glimmer of hope. Tommy’s inspirational act served to galvanize the entire eleven, “their attack developing as many spear-points as their emblem” as the Scotsman put it. The record books show that Thistle scored 4 in 10 crazy minutes, flipping a 1-3 deficit into a 5-3 lead! In amongst this madness, Hearts too lost a player, with their right back, Bobby Parker, retiring from the field with the score locked at 3-3.

The weirdest of all weird football matches continued with ten-man Hearts turning the screw on a tiring Thistle side. Their pressure paid off to a certain extent with 4 minutes left, when a header from Willie Bauld beat Ledgerwood’s locum tenens, but the brave Jags held on to record an astonishing 5-4 victory, putting an end to Hearts 100% home record into the bargain. Tommy gets all the headlines for this one – but, as he himself remembers, he was only third-best Thistle goalie on the day, conceding three. Jimmy McGowan kept a clean sheet and Willie Hewitt let in just the one. Credit to all the lads is due! Hearts were dumbfounded, Thistle ecstatic. Tommy dined out on this story for years to come – quite right, it was a cracker!

Publishing date Originally published on 22-Dec-2014 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 23-Dec-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 22-Dec-2014.

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