It may come as a shock to some people that despite the ongoing football apocalypse south of the Clyde there is still some football being played in Glasgow.
On Tuesday some of the WAFA team headed up to Firhill to watch Partick Thistle vs Ayr United. By half time I was well prepared to write a scathing article about the lamentable situation football finds itself in after decades of financial and moral decline.
I’d sat through probably the bleakest 45 minutes I’d ever witnessed. Ayr were 1-0 up thanks to an early Keigan Parker goal. It was finished well, but was largely due to the Jags’ defence looking as reliable as a promise of good behaviour from Luis Suarez.
Although Partick slowly improved, they struggled to create chances let alone entertain. As my college Craig pointed out, the remains of the rugby markings from when the Glasgow Warriors last played at Firhill allowed us to see that whenever Ayr crossed the 22 they looked likely to score.
The half was blighted by misplaced passes, bad decision making, and the complete inability of any player to get control of the ball. The weather didn’t help. A swirling wind meant that players found long passing impossible, whilst the rain was driven directly into the faces of the miserable fans.
The only thing keeping up moral was the gallows humour of the Jagscast boys we were sat with. The highlight of the half, footballing or otherwise, was this exchange:
“How is the wind managing to come from behind us?”
“Its people crying; the tears of the faithful.”
The last time I’d visited Firhill was for Glasgow Warriors’ Heineken Cup clash with defending European champions Leinster. The 6,479 crowd was a European record, and a student ticket for the game was £10.
Contrast that with £12 to sit amongst 1,439 soggy fans, enduring football considerably worse than I was used to watching when I went to see Rochdale play in League 2.
The Warriors – Leinster match wasn’t even that spectacular. It was exciting because Glasgow fought hard, and could have pulled off a shock result, but Leinster were disappointing. They reminded me of Chelsea under Jose Mourinho: powerful, effective and successful, but lacking in the sort of flair that wins over the neutral.
Top class rugby was on offer though, and for a very reasonable price. It was also refreshing to watch a sport without the backdrop of race/sex/financial/everything else scandals, where not every match is hyped until the fans are baying for each other’s blood. Rugby has had its moments recently, and unfortunately they probably are a sign of things to come, but is nowhere near football’s level of ethical bankruptcy.
So I was fully geared up to give football a right good telling off: for wasting its privileged place amongst British sports, for letting its players become irretrievably detached from society, and for ripping-off its fans.
But then joyous football flooded on to the Firhill pitch in a tidal wave of incredible skill, laughably dire technique, brutal physicality, good luck, the worst luck, end-to-end excitement and picture-perfect goals.
On 55 minutes a seemingly endless period of head-tennis ended when Kris Doolan appeared from nowhere and drove a volley home from the edge of area. In the next 35 minutes there were 4 goals. Partick went 3-1 up through a second from Doolan and a Paul Cairney penalty.
Ayr pulled one back when Michael McGowan (apparently) scored an absolute peach of a free kick. I missed it because I was checking the Napoli – Chelsea score on my phone and assumed McGowan had no chance of scoring from the range he was lining up from. More fool me.
Partick immediately went up the other end and Doolan and Cairney combined to score the kind of goal that Arsene Wenger dreams about. On top of that Partick crafted a number of other great chances, thwarted by bad finishing and good goalkeeping, and Ayr resorted to some pretty agricultural defending.
The Partick fans’ pessimism was duly replaced by gleeful celebrations. Having only scored one goal in 2012 before this game they were understandably delighted. They were as raucous as 1,439 cold and wet people (give or take a hundred of so Ayr fans) can be.
Despite everything, football is still a beautiful game.
by David Lyons