Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Classic Thistle

I was delighted to finally see the highlights of last week’s game against Ayr United. The weather that night was horrendous, as was some of the football in the opening 20 minutes. From a Thistle perspective, the final 70 minutes were fantastic. Partick Thistle managed to sum up their 136 years of existence in one game. Mingin, then sublime.

The game against Ayr showed Thistle at their best and at their worst. Thistle struggled to adjust to the conditions and, apparently, to the sport of football. Simple passes were misplaced, second touches were tackles, and chances were few and far between. The fans, understandably on this occasion, were starting to single out players as Ayr took an early lead and found chasms in the Thistle defence.

It was enough to make one fan question his own existence: “What am I doing here?!?!?”

From the incompetent, to the magnificent. Thistle started to show the sparse crowd what they are capable of. A neat exchange of passes between midfielders and attackers gave the team a series of chances to score an equaliser. An excellent run from the enigmatic Chris Erskine, led to a pass through to Doolan, who brought out a decent save from Cuthbert. Erskine had a clear shot at goal, but chose to pass. A sign, surely, that a player with such instinctive talent has lost some confidence.

As the teams emerged for the second half, Thistle’s season was hanging in the balance. Kris Doolan repaid the manager’s faith in him with a second half brace, one with his right foot and the second with his head. He had the chance to score a perfect hat trick when the impressive Paton was fouled in the box. Doolan was the supporter’s choice to take the kick, presumably with his left foot. It was, however, Paul Cairney who was given the task to put Thistle 3-1 up. Both Doolan and Cairney showing their respect for one another and McNamara’s instructions as the penalty was professionally dispatched.

Ayr scored an impressive second goal, which could have made an uncomfortable final few minutes for the Firhill crowd had it not been for Paton’s lofted ball through to Doolan, who crossed for Cairney to score his second and Thistle’s fourth of the evening.

I did wonder, after that magnificent second half performance, what the more pessimistic fans would complain about. A quick glance at a fans’ forum gave me my answer – a debate on the standard of ball boys. Seriously.

There were many more concerns raised a few days later as Thistle again showed an inability to build on a good result as they lost 2-1 to Raith Rovers. An excellent opening 45 minutes was followed by a disastrous second half, which saw Paul Paton (who was able to channel his aggression and frustration during the Ayr game to provide us with an outstanding performance) was shown a straight red card for his inability to channel his aggression and frustration, and lash out at an opponent.

Jackie McNamara has had a hard time convincing some fans that he is the man to take Thistle forward. In an interview with the Jagscast last year, he told us that he was an “ambitious wee guy”, and that he saw no reason why Thistle couldn’t be in the SPL within a couple of years. We have, at times this season, been treated to some wonderful football. If our young players were able to add some consistency to their undoubted talent, we could run away with the league title next season. Seriously.


Remember to read Craig Telfer's thoughts on the Ayr game by checking out his excellent site:

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Brown Ferguson - El Gol

VBL presents a shorter than usual Jagscast and is joined by Manly J. Panda, Cowie, Donald, Macky and's Craig Telfer.

They discuss how to make life easier for Thistle, Stenhousemuir: retirement home, and plastic pitches. They also report on the excellent 4-2 victory over Ayr United at Firhill.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Firing Blanks

VBL looks at Thistle's recent scoring drought, and makes some suggestions about how to fix it.

Thistle have only scored one goal in 2012 so far. So far this season, we have failed to score in 41% of the games we have played. Our leading scorer, Paul Cairney, is a midfielder. The league’s top scorer last season, Kris Doolan, for all his endeavour this year has only found the net 6 times.

Just call me Michael Cox. Stats galore. The fact of the matter is that Thistle’s efforts this season are being let down by misfiring strikers. At various points in their Thistle careers, Tommy Stewart and Christie Elliot have looked dangerous. However, one of these players has been looking seriously short of match fitness recently, and the other has had his raw talent knocked out of him by the rigours of full-time football.

I would love to see Stewart doing what he does best by playing off of a front man and hitting shots from distance. In this league, with the current standard of pitches, the ball could bobble in front of the goalkeeper, could take a fortunate deflection or even go flying into the roof of the net. Tommy Stewart seems to be trying too hard. If he was that good, he wouldn’t be at Thistle.

Christie Elliot is as raw as they come, and that is not a criticism. His enthusiasm for the game was clear to see when he first arrived at Firhill. It was refreshing to see a player receive the ball and drive directly at goal. He was rewarded with a handful of goals, which have since dried up. Similarly to Stewart, he needs to remember why he was brought to this club. His performance on Saturday against a poor Morton side was reminiscent of the old Christie, although his positioning behind Doolan made it difficult for him to get into decent scoring positions.

When Liam Buchanan left, Kris Doolan was asked to step up and become the number one striker at Firhill. He achieved his target last season. This year, Doolan has scored some tremendous goals, and has consistently been one of the hardest working players in the squad. He has, however, perhaps suffered from the fact that he has not had a regular striking partner alongside him. This problem may allow Jackie McNamara to experiment with a different starting formation, playing Doolan as a lone striker with two wide men in a five man midfield. Although a 4-5-1 formation suggests negative, Gus McPherson-esque football, it would allow our best players, Cairney, Rowson and Paton, to find stability in the midfield and allow creative players such as Erskine and, possibly, Naismith to provide the chances and back up for Doolan. Cairney, as one of the three central midfielders, could also provide some back up for the lone striker and chip in the odd goal or two.

These are simply my thoughts, and I hope that they open up a discussion about McNamara’s options. For me, it is better to consider what we can do with what we have. We have the personnel to make changes, which suggests that McNamara is well aware of the need to change the dynamics of the team in the middle of a game. We have a potentially excellent manager at Firhill who needs time. He has a very young squad at his disposal, some of whom will be low on confidence at the moment. He’s got a tough job getting the likes of Elliot and Stewart back to where they were, but I think he can do it. It’s our job as supporters to help the team out. We can make our own suggestions about what McNamara can do, as I have just done, but let’s keep it positive and realistic. The club have no money, and Gerry Britton can’t play anymore. Let’s give these boys all we can, and hopefully they’ll repay us with goals.



VBL talks to Donald, Manly J. Panda and Cowie about the team's recent run, how long managers should get to prove themselves, what they would do if they owned Rangers and the game against Morton.

They also welcome Jenny Jag's Mum onto the pod to discuss Archie and @gettingjaggy's article on the Jagscast site.


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Football, football, football, football, football, football, football, football, football... what you men see in it, I don't know.

We, at the Jagscast, are delighted to present you with an article written by everyone's favourite lady Thistle blogger MC. The woman behind tells us a little bit about how clubs can make their product more attractive to women.

I like football.

I never thought I’d hear myself say that, but there it is. I didn’t start coming to football because of a partner, child or family member. I just decided it was a challenge, and I never thought I would actually enjoy it. But as the weeks without football at Firhill have dragged on, I’ve found myself really missing it, and keen to go back at the earliest date I can. But it seems I’m one of a minority at the stadium, where attendance numbers seem to be on the slide and I meet the same three or four women in the toilets at half time every matchday. In tough financial times, increasing the number of people attending the game is vital. Let’s face it, though: many Partick Thistle supporters, even the diehards I’ve come across, are disillusioned with the recent poor run of form. Ironically, one of the few things which might increase the number of supporters attending would be for that to continue, leading to a relegation battle. The Under-16s-go-free scheme has been in place for some time, and the uptake seems to have stagnated. But what does Partick Thistle do to encourage women along to its games?

For as long as I can remember, football has been for blokes. It’s inevitable: I’ll bet that everyone has seen a video of a female toddler pushing a pram around and crashing it into furniture (meeting two fabulous stereotypes which will continue long into their adulthood about their maternal instincts and their ability to drive), while her brother stumbles over a football with an adult performing a dramatic dive of the finest Italian teams as the wean “scores” his first goal. Most girls I know don’t bother going to the football because they don’t care. They don’t understand the rules, they get bored by the terminology, they are lost by the punditry, and they find the atmosphere and culture surrounding the stadium at best bearable, at worst intimidating.

As a result of this, the generally male-dominated stands immediately, and understandably I suppose, presume that a girl who is keen on football must be in some way “blokey”. Does that mean I automatically have the face of a bearded gargoyle? Well, no...but if I dare to be something other than that, or make an effort by wearing something girly, I’m probably only out to pull a player, right? I didn’t think that this kind of attitude existed these days, but since my blog started I’ve been called countless names and many football-related conversations I get involved in magically turn into discussions about my chest. I brush it off, especially because I join in with the joke. You only need to look at my blog to see me fully playing up to the stereotype, in fact. I don’t deny it. However, I know this attitude would discourage many of my female friends from coming near a football game.

Unfortunately, clubs entrench the attitude by assuming that women at matches fall into the second category: girly girls who like girly things and oh! Pink merchandise! We’ll hook ‘em in with that. I’m sorry, but why would I want to turn up to support a team who wear red and yellow in a baby pink beanie? I’d much rather own a well-fitted Ladies cut strip than a cotton candy generic item with a small logo. Eintracht Frankfurt has a group of fans called “Stoppt Rosa!” specifically campaigning against the fact that these items do not reveal anything about your allegiance, but instead your gender: they argue that you wouldn’t expect all the men to wear baby blue. Target the female market in merchandise, but don’t wrap us up in cotton wool and candy floss.

When I first spoke to the Jagscast about my blog, I was told that in Germany, teams have specific provision for women on matchdays. The stadium opens early, and there are child-friendly activities to encourage the idea that football is a fun day out for the whole family. Indeed, you need only look at the success of the women-only match Fenerbahce were forced to pilot after the closed-doors decision as evidence that women will come to football when the provision is made for them. Alarm bells are ringing for me, though: when I go to the game, do I want to sit in the women only area of the stand they have set aside for me? Well, no, not at all. Likewise, I’m concerned at the continued belief that the presence of women at games has a calming effect on the crowd, and that discipline and the general atmosphere of the terraces are hugely improved. I’m sorry, but just because I want to go to see football doesn’t make me Ghandi. It’s as sexist to presume that women can magically solve some of the problems of football as it is to ask why they’re not at home making the tea.

However, what teams can do is show that women are wanted at the stadium. Think about the little things: ensure that there is suitable provision for ladies toilets, and for God’s sake make them comfortable. Get some decent soap in there. Replace those wooden toilet edges. Dish out handwarmers or flog them for a pound with the programmes. Really promote the fact that there is a bar available after the game – a fact I only discovered recently – and make it easy to find. When they get there, make sure it has stuff they want to buy. Get some matchday entertainment. Offer a ladies day, like many clubs already do. Run events specifically tailored to women: fashion shows, Christmas shopping events, ladies lunches. Even better, chuck it on a social shopping site and watch as groups of girls plan a night out with the club at its centre. They might not be as interested in the 90 minutes of a match as their male counterparts, but believe me, they would be much more easily persuaded to come to a club social event.

But as things go at the moment, the most obvious problem for encouraging women to football is that when they get there, they feel like a minority. This is probably best evidenced by the fact that many women go to see Glasgow’s big two teams: more women attending matches will normalise the idea, making it more accessible for others. I’m sticking with it and I’m trying my best to bring along friends, but it’s tough to persuade them. Women must be more visible in the stands, but also in the boardroom, coaching, and even on the pitch. Give younger girls role models to show them that football – whether played by men or women – isn’t necessarily a bloke’s world and that they can come and watch the men’s game without being labelled or segregated.

I like football. I just wish some more like-minded women would join me.

Monday, 13 February 2012

An Interview with Conrad Balatoni

VBL chats to former Thistle and Hearts defender, Conrad Balatoni.

They cover Conrad's step into professional football, the difficulties of being a defender, gaffers, THAT game up in Culter, and what he plans to do when his footballing days are over.

He's of Austro-Hungarian descent, by the way.


Download it here:

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Patch-up and move on

This week came with some relief for those of the Thistle persuasion. The club made public its agreement with Just Employment Law, who will act as shirt sponsors for the remainder of the season, in place of the beleaguered MacB. The securing of some sort of arrangement to tide the club over into the summer months was crucial, particularly with the collapse of the prior contract coming shortly after the disappointing news of Firhill tenants Glasgow Warriors’ intentions to leave Firhill. This understood, the launch was perhaps a little low-key with respect to how vital this deal is to the club.

The arrangement was unlikely to capture the attention as much as the bright, seemingly destined to blossom, link with MacB. However, it seemed quite apparent that this was a fairly hum-drum type of press call. The sparse (a synonym of meagre and poor amongst other such unflattering words) attendance at the press call suggested this would not be making any front pages, which in turn does not say much about the general interest in the club’s affairs at the moment. We, as supporters, may like to think that our financial problems are well documented, or more positively, that we hold some media clout in a niche sort of way. Unfortunately, this clout was not apparent at Firhill or anywhere nearby this week. That is perhaps a thought for the day; does the general media actually realise that clubs, outside of Rangers, are experiencing financial difficulty? Forgive me for my cynicism, but a club with the ability to attract over fifty-thousand fans at a home fixture should not receive any sympathy for falling into monetary pitfalls, whilst other clubs struggle through a season and face an near-eternal struggle against the pulling power of the Old Firm.

While the launch itself wouldn’t exactly be a suitable candidate to get anyone out of their bed on a Monday morning, what was said and done was measured and sensible. A five-figure sum, a frustratingly vague tag admittedly, is nonetheless central to the club’s account and their health. Thistle director Greg Brown indicated his satisfaction at having come to an agreement with the new partners, whilst positive language was also used by Company Director David McRae. It is of course absurdly early to begin speculating about where this link could lead to, yet both representatives tacitly suggested that this agreement could be further developed after the close of the current football season. Such language is excellent to hear from a Thistle perspective; however we must also consider the extent to which a firm such as Just Employment Law could benefit from ties with a First Division football club. The company’s representatives stressed that this was a “new direction” for the company, having never made forays into the footballing world prior to the current engagement. Therefore, it will certainly be interesting to see how the two sides feel about the deal at the end of the season. A positive outcome, that is to say an extended deal, would be most welcome, whilst a break-off with another sponsor would provide the club with a little more of a black spot when the matter concerns sponsorship.

Turning to other matters, it is excellent to have the chance to welcome a new player to Firhill, something I am sure many of us thought we would never see again, quite happily settling for watching the same group of players financed by buttons and laces. However, the loan signing of Sean Welsh is an interesting one. Is the newcomer here to pass the time while Pat Fenlon builds his new team at Easter Road, or is this acquisition here to prove to the Irishman that he is worthy of a contract beyond the summer in Leith? Whatever the train of thought from the Hibernian end, we wish Sean Welsh well and hope he lives up to our own expectations, as well as those of his own manager. On that note, I shall conclude by expressing my content at the club’s securing of a metaphorical morphine in the form of some financial support. That done and secured, we as supporters must also remember that we have a major say in what the coming months hold for the club. We can resign ourselves to apathy and malaise, or actually address our own gripes and complaints by doing all we can to support the club, on and off the pitch.

Ruairidh MacLennan

Wir sind eine weithin bekannte Glasgow-Fußballmannschaft

If I hear the phrase “dwindling attendances” one more time, I think I’m going to kill somebody.

There is no hiding from the fact that Scottish football, as a product, is failing. This is evident from the dwindling attendances (oops) throughout all of the country’s professional football leagues. Something has to be done. The Old Firm are no longer able to charge their fans funny money to watch world class players, because they don’t have any.

It’s a vicious cycle: teams have no money; teams cannot afford better players; teams’ performances no longer meet their fans’ insane expectations; teams’ fans lose interest; teams have no money.

How do we fix this? Teams aren’t going to reduce ticket prices. This is too much of a gamble. A scheme such as that would require some patience. Chairmen and patience are two words that shouldn’t go together in a sentence. Except that one, right there.

Our own Partick Thistle have allowed children under the age of sixteen to go to games for free. This sounds fantastic but the uptake of this, in all honesty, has been slow. I can’t give a reason for this, but there must be something that is stopping children from going along to watch real, proper, football.

Can we, please, have a little look at what goes on in Germany? Please? I’m not expecting Dunfermline Athletic to suddenly expect an average attendance of over 19,000, matching the Bundesliga’s bottom side, Freiburg. That’s just silly considering the population of Germany compared to Scotland. There must, however, be a reason why such a large percentage of Germany’s 81 million inhabitants go to watch football week in, week out.

I want to find out if there is anything my beloved Partick Thistle can learn from the Germans. I’d love to see Firhill’s crowd grow from 2000 to 4000. I want to help. So, here we go.

“Young Generation Dortmund” is an awful translation. It is, however, an excellent idea. Borussia Dortmund arrange supporters buses for young fans to travel to and from games. The buses are alcohol free and keep the kids away from any trouble with the Ultras. Thistle, what with the business acumen on the board, could set up some sort of partnership with a minibus company and arrange well publicised pick up points around the city to transport Glasgow’s kids to games where they can gain free entry. There are plenty of student teachers and social workers who are looking for voluntary work, get them to chaperone the buses.

FC St Pauli’s “Fanladen” is a group of committed and passionate fans who, amongst other things, are available to help tourists and locals arrange their trips to the Millerntor. The St Pauli board recognise this group of fans and use them as a forum for ideas to take the club forward. Some of the Fanladen’s other initiatives involve producing fanzines (remember them?) more suited to children, which would tie in nicely with the Kids Go Free scheme, and other fanzines targeted at women. They also arrange football tournaments with other fans, something which Thistle have already explored with last year’s successful Firhill Cup. Thistle do have the resources to create a Fanladen within their ranks. We just need willing volunteers.

I wanted to stay away from the obvious in this article, but I think the issue of Biertents and Fanzones has to be addressed. Thistle have, in my opinion, a wonderful facility in the Aitken Suite. This is an area within the ground that both home and away fans can mingle pre and post match, and have a pint. Due to my commitments with the Jagscast, I can no longer visit the Aitken Suite on match days. I do recall that the numbers in the suite were falling. I cannot fully comment on why this was the case. Perhaps an overpriced bar, or a lack of atmosphere? I think the club could relaunch this idea, and inject some life into it to encourage fans to return. Perhaps, and I don’t know how realistic this is, the club could show old footage of games on a screen or two. This would give the fans something to talk about and provide them with a chance to reminisce about games from years ago. We are a club steeped in history and tradition, so why not celebrate it? If the club are keen on selling hospitality packages to more fans, then they could provide the ordinary punter with a taste of the hospitality experience. Why not get Mr. Robert Reid: club historian, or some directors into the Aitken Suite pre and post match to speak to the fans. You could even pipe through some Thistle music through the speakers in the room. All of these suggestions would help to improve the atmosphere, and encourage fans to return to a Fanzone.

The current board at Firhill are a cooperative bunch, and are very happy to hear suggestions from fans. The debates over standing sections and alcohol in the stands have been done to death. I’d like to think that us Jags fans can be a wee bit more inventive and look at other ways to entice fans back to Firhill. Get your thinking caps on. Why bother reinventing the wheel, though. Let us see what works in other countries, like Germany, and see what we can do here.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A Life Without Thistle

VBL gives us an insight into life without Thistle. How many of you have been struggling without a game for 2 weeks?

Thistle are not cup specialists. There, I’ve said it. The disappointing defeat to Berwick Rangers in the Firhill sunshine meant that there would be no romantic return to Hampden 40 years after our League Cup success. The blip against Culter was rescued by a convincing, professional performance in the replay but was followed by another poor result against a Queen of the South team seemingly determined to destroy football as an art form.

Those two cup defeats have left Thistle with a large gap in their schedule. The players must feel frustrated given that their last performance earned them a hard fought point against title-chasing Dundee in an entertaining 0-0 at Firhill on 21st January. Our next game isn’t until February 11th when we visit The “Insert Highest Bidding Local Business Name Here” stadium/arena/complex/showroom and take on Ferr…Mead…em…Livingston. That’s the one.

So, with no game to go to for two consecutive Saturdays, Thistle fans may well have been twiddling their thumbs, or looked elsewhere for entertainment. Alan Durban, manager of Stoke in 1980, famously said “If you want entertainment, go and watch a bunch of clowns”. Some would argue there are enough clowns in Scottish football. Others “fans” may have just stuck to what they usually do on a Saturday and not even notice that Thistle weren’t playing.

Personally, I was kept amused by a combination of FA Cup matches and the excellent African Cup of Nations (get Bobby Dinnie over there). The lack of Thistle did, however, make me think about a life without them. Imagine if the worst case scenario did happen. Thistle go bust. What then?

I know of some fans who would be more than happy to give up following football entirely. Thistle provide them with their only interest in the game. Without them, football might as well cease to exist.

What about supporting a different team? For many, this would be an impossibility such is their hatred for other teams. There are already plenty of Thistle fans who no longer attend Firhill and have instead crossed over to the dark side of the Old Firm. Alternatively, there is Queens Park. Now there’s a thought. Queens Park were once one of the best teams in the world. You would have to consider watching them.

I suppose there are other things to do instead of watching football. You could sell a few organs and go to the cinema every week, or take up painting, or build a spice rack or something. I’m struggling.

However, we do have a club. We have Partick Thistle. A team steeped in tradition. A team with a unique history. A team so unpredictable that even some of their players don’t know what they will do next. A team with entertaining, exciting and young players. A team lead by a model professional who is trying to create a footballing philosophy at the club.

Thistle Chairman, David Beattie wants more bums on seats. I cannot understand why parents aren’t sending their kids off to Firhill on a Saturday. We have a potentially great stadium and wonderful child-friendly events. We have some great footballers who children should be idolising. They cannot idolise a footballer properly through a television screen, even if it is in high definition, 4D, interactive and smellyvision.

It’s free entry for children under sixteen at Firhill for the rest of the season. Get yourself and your weans along there for something to do. No one can guarantee how long any club will be around for. Make the most of it now.

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