Angry Partick boss hits out at SPFL over Tynecastle saga

Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald accused the Scottish Professional Football League of a dereliction of duty in failing to prevent the uncertainty which surrounded the re-opening of Tynecastle.

Alan Archibald says the game at Tynecastle should have been called off. Picture: SNS
Alan Archibald says the game at Tynecastle should have been called off. Picture: SNS

The Firhill club were furious at the delays in Hearts receiving the go-ahead to stage yesterday’s Premiership fixture with Edinburgh City Council only granting a provisional safety certificate late on Saturday night. Formal confirmation that the match would go ahead came following a final 8am inspection of the new £14 million main stand yesterday morning.

That prompted Thistle to issue a statement before kick-off claiming the week-long saga had damaged Scottish football and calling for an SPFL inquiry.

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Speaking after his team had come from behind to secure a 1-1 draw in the match, Archibald insisted league bosses should have been more proactive.

He said they should have taken an early decision to postpone the game until this midweek.

“Towards the end of the week it was a real problem for us,” said Archibald. “I overheard the players talking on Saturday, saying ‘Is it going to be on, is it going to be off? Do we know yet?’

“I saw a bit of doubt coming into them and when you look for total focus, that’s the last thing you want.

“I’m not going to lie, the last couple of days have been quite difficult. I was delighted it was on. Nothing against Hearts, they were desperate to get the game on and so were we. But the league should have taken a stance on it, it was up to them to take a position.

“They should have made a decision one way or another and given Hearts a cut off point, with the possibility of re-scheduling the game for Wednesday as they do for cup replays. That would have been a lot easier.

“It wouldn’t have happened had Rangers been coming here, would it? Let’s be honest – and that’s not a wee club mentality, but more to do with the traffic and personnel that would have been coming.

“They wouldn’t have allowed it to go to the last minute. It would have been better to have shown more common sense, rather than Hearts having to do the work they had to do to get the game on. They were rushing about when we could have a date on Tuesday or Wednesday just as we do with Scottish Cup replays.”

Hearts owner Ann Budge defended her club’s position, however, and insisted they were duty bound to make every effort to ensure the game took place yesterday.

“I guess it depends on how you view it,” said Budge. “From my perspective I reckoned it was important to all the fans – the Hearts fans and the Partick fans – it was important to both clubs, both teams, that we really go for it.

“I felt I had a duty to really push it to the wire to try and get this game on because so many people would have had different problems.

“And the other thing is, I was in constant touch with Partick Thistle. I have also been in ­daily touch with the SPFL, everyone has known what’s been going on, I’ve been keeping them informed. So I know certain supporters will have been frustrated, but we were really doing it because we felt it was the right thing to do.

“The easy option for me would have been to say on Monday or Wednesday, ‘this is too difficult let’s just postpone the game’. Nobody would have wanted that, Partick Thistle didn’t want that.”

Hearts were unable to celebrate their return home after a four-month absence with a victory. Esmael Goncalves gave them a 54th-minute lead but Thistle substitute Kris Doolan claimed a late equaliser which left Hearts manager Craig Levein crying foul.

“I’m frustrated and a bit disappointed, particularly in the officials because the Thistle goal is offside and a handball,” claimed Levein.

“We managed to restrict Thistle to one shot on target which was the goal. I don’t know who handled it. But he’s offside when the ball has gone into the box, he’s challenged for it, then he’s punched it to Doolan.

“For me it’s a clear offside, even if there are enough ­bodies so the linesman didn’t see the handball. I thought it would take something like that to score against us. Defensively we weren’t out of second gear today. I was really pleased with that aspect but unfortunately we’re sitting here ruing the fact the officials didn’t do their job ­properly.

“It was great to play here again. There’s still a lot of work to be done but it was good to get the game on. I would have loved to get a victory, it would have been the icing on the cake. But I can’t criticise the players for their intentions.

“It was great we got back here and got to experience it. Our supporters were great. The atmosphere was brilliant and I think the new stand will keep the noise inside. I’m just disappointed for everyone associated with the club that we couldn’t win the game.”