Who Put The Ball In The Rangers Net?

by William Sheridan
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WILLIE PAUL

09.02.1889 Rangers [a] W4-2 (Friendly)
Willie Paul (1-1, 1st half); Jerry Suter (2-2, 1st half); Andrew Johnston (3-2, 1st half); Willie Paul (4-2, 65 mins)

Research into Thistle’s history never stops and we now know that Willie Paul has (at least) a massive 225 goals to his credit as a Jag – a spectacular tally in an era when hundreds of goal scorers went unaccredited. He gave 17 years of first-class playing service to the cause, and we know that he played in (at least) 411 games for the club.

If his only goal against Rangers had cannoned off his posterior in a fundraiser for Auchenshuggle Community Centre, it’s likely that he’d still have made my countdown, such is my deep admiration for the man.

But this is Willie Paul we’re talking about; where there was record-making action in the nineteenth century, he was never too far away, and, almost inevitably, he has goals records against Rangers that demand inclusion.

4 times we played Rangers in season 1888-89. Unfortunately, we lost the big one (2-4 in the Scottish Cup at Old Ibrox in September), but three subsequent victories softened the blow (2-0 at Inchview in October, 4-2 at Old Ibrox in February and 6-2 at Inchview in May). This “treble” still stands jointly as the club record today, having been matched four times since – in 1904-05, 1914-15, 1934-35 and 1950-51.

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Willie notched his first goals against the Rangers in the October game (Saturday the 13th) and repeated his double dosage in the February return at Old Ibrox (Saturday the 9th), “outwitting the Rangers defence” on the frozen pitch as Jags ran out 4-2 winners “to the surprise of all football enthusiasts”. Sam Kennedy (in 1904-05) is the only other Thistle player to have matched this “double brace season” feat against our old rivals from Govan.

Unfortunately, Willie didn’t play in the 6-2 game in May or, who knows, he may well have grabbed an historic treble brace for himself!

Amazingly, immediately following on from that season, Willie scored another brace against Rangers in a Cup Final would you believe – but not, alas, for Thistle. In late July 1889, he appeared in the final of the Sir William Cunningham Cup against Rangers at Ibrox as a favour to Cowlairs whose regular centre forward was unavailable, with his two goals contributing to a 4-0 win for the Springburn club. Rangers lodged a protest about the legality of the appearance of our man (as well as Mitchell of Kilmarnock), but this was not upheld. Willie’s gold medal, as provided by Sir William Cunningham himself, was safely in his collection!

Resolutely amateur all of his days, Willie played for the love of the game and not for money, so that medal was surely one to be cherished.

It was rumoured that Rangers (true to form) tried to coax him over to the dark side but, thankfully, there has been no contemporary evidence uncovered to demonstrate that this ever came to pass.

He was certainly a man much in demand, but he stayed loyal to the Thistle, racking up records galore. From every angle, Willie Paul was, undoubtedly, the first giant of Partick Thistle.

That he lies today in an unmarked grave is a terrible shame : - (

Publishing date Originally published on 16-Dec-2017 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 05-Sep-2020.

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