George Cheyne: Glasgow October 2021
My name is George…and I’m not a Partick Thistle fan. There, I’ve said it, I’m coming clean after living with my guilt for 50 years.
It’s more of a guilty pleasure, actually, because going to Hampden with my dad to see Thistle win the League Cup in 1971 was one of the best days of my life.
It started off as a homage to my grandad – a lifelong Jags fan who had passed away a couple of years before – and ended up being an amazing shared bonding experience for my dad and I.
The build-up to the game was pretty low-key. That was mirrored in our house as my dad tried to keep a lid on any expectations.
“We’re up against a team that got to the European Cup Final last year,” he said, “I just hope we don’t get embarrassed.”
To be fair, he wasn’t alone in thinking that. I don’t remember many people giving Thistle an earthly ahead of the game.
I had just turned 13 a few weeks before, so it was a huge deal for me. My first final…I couldn’t wait.
The excitement of the big day got to me and I woke just after 6am, went downstairs and found my dad in the kitchen. He couldn’t sleep either.
He made me a huge bacon and melted cheese sandwich – it was too early for the roll delivery – and a mug of tea. The breakfast of champions, as it turned out.
We chatted away about my boys’ club football, school, my younger brothers, the weather…anything, really, apart from the game.
That was about to change. Not because we saw the BBC Grandstand programme where presenter Sam Leitch told everyone: “It’s League Cup final day at Hampden where Celtic meet Partick Thistle, who have no chance.”
No, we missed that as we were heading to my grandma’s house at that same time, having arranged to pop in before the game. She was quite chuffed we were going to honour my grandad’s memory and handed over his old Thistle scarf for me to wear.
“He’ll be looking out for you, so mind and keep it on,” she said as we waved goodbye.
So that’s how I found myself in the covered end at Hampden that day holding aloft a Thistle scarf as the goals rained in. One…two…three…four…the fans around us could hardly believe what was happening.
Maybe we all should have. The number one single at that time was Rod Stewart’s Reason To Believe, a double A-side with Maggie May. Surely that was an omen for one of the greatest upsets in Scottish football.
My abiding memory of the final was turning towards my dad at full-time amid the bedlam and seeing him with the biggest of big grins on his face. He looked at me silently and then raised his eyes to the skies above Hampden.
I knew what he meant…grandad had been looking out for us.