McQuade may not have always been aware of where he was headed when he embarked on a left-wing meander but he knew Firhill was Firhill.
Now, though, Partick Thistle’s Firhill is to be known as the Energy Check Stadium. Quelle horreur! as Maryhill’s student population might put it, if they were awake at this hour. Quelle horreur! as Chic Charnley might say.
What do Alex Rae and Bobby Lawrie and Jimmy Bone think, these being the scorers along with McQuade on Thistle’s greatest day – 23 October, 1971 when they thumped Celtic 4-1 to win the League Cup? What does the Jag who shot furthest in football think, namely Alan Hansen?
And what do top bakers McGhee’s think? “Firhill for thrills, McGhee’s for pies” was the slogan on Scottish football’s most important and lyrical piece of pitchside advertising. Maybe over the years a thrusting marketing exec at the company has demanded to know: “Never mind lyrical, how many pies has the hoarding sold? Doesn’t everybody forget about us and just quote “Firhill for thrills”, for example every football scribe when a game is even moderately interesting?”
Ah, but think of the greater good and of heritage! Think of yourselves as unknown soldiers! Think of the slogan as a selfless – and okay, pie-less – act!
To be fair to Thistle, the official title is Energy Check Stadium at Firhill but that’s a mouthful and a half. Who’s going to use the full Sunday name on a Saturday afternoon? And won’t “at Firhill” just get lost in the breeze like “McGhee’s for pies”?
Footballers are pragmatic people. They need to be. They forget about the team they supported as a boy when they sign for a different club. Then they often move to another club to earn more money – it’s a short career, after all. So doubtless they will say that when a commercial opportunity which can benefit Thistle comes along, it cannot be turned down.
It’s the rest of us who get silly and romantic about dilapidated stands, yellowing match programmes and the rest. Recently I bought a Thistle programme on eBay – from the game where I first became aware of the legend “Firhill for thrills”. It was the Maryhill Magyars v Celtic in the Scottish Cup on a chittery afternoon in January, 1969, the home team battling back heroically from 3-1 down to force a replay with the last kick. I wasn’t at the match – even better, in a way, I was listening to David Francey’s hysterical radio commentary. I thought my transistor was going to explode.
My first visit to the ground was for another cup-tie, no less thrilling, with Hibs’ Eric Schaedler scoring a ridiculous goal from the touchline when his throw-in bounced back to him.
Every visit after that Thistle have run on to the park to the sound of Sylvia, an instrumental hit for my favourite Dutch prog-rockers, Focus.Sylvia will still be Sylvia and fundamentally Firhill will still be Firhill. The regulars will still call it that. But the names of certain special grounds, you feel, should be protected from tampering and this is surely one of them.
Maybe some of those regulars will feel they are being patronised here. Fed up with their club being a music-hall joke and then a Chewin’ the Fat sketch as the team-of-choice of trendy West Endy chumps who didn’t really like football – understandably so – they’re all for progress. This isn’t the same thing as prog-rock.
But one last question: Harry Calderhead, alias Harry Bingo, 97, a real Jags aficionado all his days, died last week – what would he have thought?