By Blackpool jags
Just waking up in Glasgow, as opposed to confronting the usual 200 miles to Jaggyland, set the scene for an enhanced match day experience in itself. The atmosphere in the West End was chirpy and upbeat. Some of this had clearly rubbed off on the missus as she surprisingly informed me that she would be joining me at the match, at the expense of an afternoon’s shopping in the town centre with her mother-in-law. Fair enough, although pre-match refreshments at the Strathmore is part of the match day package, something which she’d just have to deal with.
It’s now just after 1.30pm and the pre-match nerves are already jangling with expectation. After a solid first two games of the season, I’m not unaware that a poor showing against the blue Saints would see us back amongst the pack and take the veneer off our early expectations.
The Strathy, resplendent with Red, Yellow & Black banner next to the swirling Saltire, jutting out from its front welcomes all Thistle fans and has no ban on colours being worn; my sort of place. However, inside only a handful of Jags are to be seen and an equal number of our city cousins, of the Rangers persuasion, can be heard shouting at the telly which is showing their team struggling to make another breakthrough against Aberdeen. Against this backdrop our number discuss the prospects of a Jags victory this afternoon. Views range from “nae bother, we’ll gub them, ah jist know it”, through “this mob always take a point aff us”, to even more negative foretellings.
We arrive seconds before kick-off and the place feels right. No sooner have we settled into our seats and big Robbo has our afternoon off to a flyer. A glance across to the visitors end reveals not only a flattened mood but a poor number of Saintees; perhaps as few as 250, certainly not many more.
There is evidently something electric about the Jags approach to this encounter which becomes more apparent as the half progresses; every man fighting for every ball, Twaddle utterly convinced that he cannot be beaten by their right winger, Stevie Lennon chasing lost causes and visibly unsettling their back line.
Half time arrives and, to be honest, another goal would have been as welcome as it would have been deserved; this lot know how to get out of jail against us and, as we know to our cost, even a two goal lead with time running out is no guarantee of victory.
Feeling good just the same, I make my way over towards the City end of the JH to say hello and have a quick blether with big Donnie. The teams re-emerge from the tunnel and it’s time to head back to my seat. The second half is almost a blur, goals from Paton and Maxwell enough to send the JH into raptures and enough for a hundred or so Saints supporters who can’t stomach any more. It was especially gratifying to wave them off and bid them cheerio.
Surely the three points were by now in the bag. Not half, and Gary Harkins made sure that not only would we be heading back up to second in the table but we’d be able to compare this rout with any of the great Jags wins of the past six or seven years. On a quick review the stand-outs were Sid, Twaddle, Harkins (still something of an enigma with his mazy runs and often questionable last touches), Tuffey and Robertson. That said, no player sporting the famous Red’n’Yella had an off day and one wonders, on this form at least, just how difficult Messrs Rowson, Archibald and Buchanan will find it to reclaim their places in the starting line-up. This was indeed a sweet result not only because of the score line and the quality of the goals (particularly numbers two and three) but because of the passion and commitment on display from every player bar none. Hats off to Mr McCall.
Back in the Strathy, even the most seasoned Jags fans, many too long in the tooth to get carried away with one result, were starting to seriously ponder whether this could in fact be our year; a return to the best days we enjoyed under Lambie. I certainly don’t see those sentiments as being in any way mis-placed. A relatively young side carefully put together by the gaffer, now with a clear sense of purpose and the knowledge that no amount of natural ability is of use without hard physical commitment in this league. Who knows? Time will tell.
The evening drive back to the Lancashire coast was truly a sweet one and although I wouldn’t be waking up in the West End in the morning, I would have something to grin heartily about for days to come.