FEATURE PARTICK THISTLE
t was a good interview. with some solid enquiries on the one side. and skilful ﬁelding and sharp responses from the boy Belcher on the other. little in the way of time-wasting manoeuvres and no underhand tackles. But at the end of the day. it was the interviewer‘s failure to ﬁnd the back of the net with that crucial question that forced an inconclusive result. Sorry. punters. I forgot to ask if Partick Thistle Football Crazy. the first ‘theatrical diversion‘ to flow from the pen of Glasgow Herald scribe David Belcher. is a play of two halves.
The fans remain sanguine. however. in the face of such negligent play. euphoric even in the knowledge that their beloved Thistle have ﬁnally been deemed worthy of theatri- cal investigation. Partick Thistle Football Crazy will redress the balance of artistic and media attention away from the Old Firm. who until now have dominated footie-orien- tated cultural debate in Scotland. Celtic have had two highly successful productions. The Celtic Story and The Lions OfLisbon. devot- ed to sepia-tinted reminiscences of their glory days, while reams of newsprint and acres of proselytising TV discussions on both antagonists have focussed on. shall we say, extracurricular elements of the clubs‘s personas.
‘I make reference to the fact that for the followers of some other Glasgow football clubs, the football doesn’t seem enough for them and they have to have this religious element as well,’ says Belcher, before adding the inevitable. ‘whereas Partick
Thistle is a religion for its believers‘.
The play is composed of a series of comic set pieces. each ruminating on various aspects of the history of Partick Thistle FC, from its foundation in 1876 up to the year 2021. and in particular on the nature of its support. It has been described by its author as ‘a heroic comedy with tragic undertones‘. ‘That‘s a reference to Partick Thistle‘s stan— dard of play which is often both comic and tragic simultaneously.’ he explains.
‘It‘s meant to be in the same spirit as a lot of football fanzines. It‘s not really autobio- graphical — it comes from observing the peo- ple around me on the terraces and the things they say. I go with a group of friends who call themselves The Thistle Occasionals. as opposed to casuals. and a lot of it‘s based on really funny lines and observations that they have made at grounds up and down the country.
‘I think tans’ responses are universal. I’m sure fans in 1876 were saying the equivalent of “McGIumpher, you’re shite” and they’ll still be saying it in the year 2021 .’ David Belcher
'Worttlng class hallot?’
DISASTER FOR PARTICK!
The phrase has entered the language. There may be many who think the club‘s name is Partick Thistle Nil but for the hard core of supporters, David Belcher included, they are a cause for celebration. Fiona Shepherd reports from the terraces on the tragedy
and comedy of football at Firhill.
‘I think fans‘ responses are universal. I‘m sure fans in 1876 were saying the equivalent of “McGlumpher. you‘re shite“ and they‘ll still be saying it in the year 2021.‘
Thistle command a hardcore support of a few thousand. possibly ill-advised. souls. exhibiting what Belcher terms ‘the Victor Meldrew tendency‘. Well. we see enough of One Foot In The Grave as it is. What‘s so idiosyncratic about Jags fans is that they get a whole play to themselves and not. say (prejudicial. loyalties welling up here) Queen‘s Park supporters?
‘We‘re not like the supporters of Liverpool. Arsenal. Rangers. Celtic -~ we don‘t expect to do brilliantly well. We have more realistic expectations. We suffer when things go wrong but we enjoy our victories. I think. a bit more. We're more level—headed and humane about things and that‘s what the play‘s meant to celebrate.‘
Let‘s go over now to Firhill where Thistle club secretary Robert Reid is waiting to give us a second opinion. Robert? ‘Well, I think the fans have to be resilient. thickskinned and have a good sense of humour. They need all these qualities in order to be a Thistle fan. It’s the easiest thing in the world to join a successful bandwagon; it's not so easy to proceed along in the face of all the difﬁcul- ties.
‘I think fathers send their sons, and maybe even nowadays their daughters to Firhill. because they think it‘s the right place to go. What happens then. as the years go by, is that the pressure on these youngsters at school or in the workplace gets great. On a
5 The List 23 April—6 May 1993