Who Put The Ball In The Rangers Net?

by William Sheridan
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JOHNNY GIBSON

04.09.1971 Rangers [h] W3-2 (SFL First Division - game 1)
Johnny Gibson (1-1, 15 mins); Frank Coulston (2-1, 30 mins); Johnny Gibson (3-1, 31 mins)

To fully appreciate the joy of our #4 entry, you need to rewind back to the 8th April 1970 – Partick Thistle 1, Morton 2 – the night when Thistle were mathematically confirmed as a relegated club for the first time in almost 70 years. That game was extra notable on two further counts; Scot Symon took charge of the side for the last time, and Alan Rough made his debut in goals.

Fast-forward 15 months, and new manager, Davie McParland, had steered the side back to the top-flight berth to which they had, for so long, been accustomed.

When the fixture list was announced, no doubt there were wry smiles and mixed emotions from those with an allegiance to the red and yellow. Rangers at Firhill was sure to be a test. Had Thistle truly improved in the intervening period, or would they be on the receiving end of a short-sharp reminder of Thistle life circa '69?

The answer on the day was loud and clear – THISTLE ARE BACK!

Writing beautifully in the Herald, Jim Parkinson set the scene:

If Firhill’s freshly mown turf, manicured in exquisite pattern, was an open invitation to Partick Thistle’s eager youngsters to produce something equally artististic on their return to the First Division, then it had the desired effect.

One down after five minutes, Firhill Patrons feared the worst, but their heroes were not long in overcoming their nervousness. Looking back to the game, the biggest thanksgiving is reserved for our wee right winger, 20-year-old Johnny Gibson, who, despite being kicked all over the park, scored twice and helped make the other, doing all of his business in the first-half before retiring at half-time with an ice-pack for his bruises, a chill-out in the jacuzzi, a fat Cuban cigar and a large glass of cognac.

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With the cheers still ringing in their ears after turning a one goal deficit on its head, our 5' 5½ hero “hoisted his tiny frame up” to head Thistle into a 3-1 lead, the new League season barely half-an-hour old. The goal came as a result of fine work from Bobby Lawrie, who took on the Rangers defence and sent over a perfect cross. To see the wee man get a header past the giant that was Peter McCloy must have been a sight to behold!

“McParland’s babes”, as they were occasionally styled, knew no fear, and played with a youthful confidence that was extremely refreshing to the Firhill faithful; the tired old Partick Thistle club of the late 1960s was born anew.

You can just imagine how a Jaggy conversation might well have went heading down the Firhill Road at 4.50pm… “I'm tellin' ye Tam, ah 'hink they could dae something in wan ae the Cups this year, Alloa on Monday, ye gawn, aye?”…

Publishing date Originally published on 22-Dec-2017 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 22-Dec-2017.

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