Who Put The Ball In The Rangers Net?

by William Sheridan
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BRIAN WHITTAKER

30.10.1976 Rangers [h] W2-1 (SFL Premier Division - game 8)
Dougie Somner (1-1, 75 mins); Brian Whittaker (2-1, 90+1 mins)

Brian Whittaker was a guy who practically invented Aaron Taylor-Sinclair and Callum Booth, and gave great service to Thistle from 1974 onwards, clocking up over 350 appearances, before a skint Firhill board finally gave in to the cheap lure of Davie Hay's Parkhead cheque book in 1983. To be fair, John Buckley moved in the other direction as part of the deal, so perhaps we didn't do too badly out of it. For certain, we can be thankful for a lot of great times, none more so than a battle-of-the-champions top-flight encounter in October '76 when Brian had just turned 20…

When Kenny Watson put the Scottish champions ahead in the 53rd minute of this one, Thistle fans would have been ruing a series of missed opportunities and a denied penalty claim (Ian Foote was in charge, say no more). There would have been very few inside the packed Firhill who would have given the newly promoted side a chance from thereon, but Bertie Auld’s Jags – with only 1 defeat in the last 8 games – were accustomed to not losing; they were a spirited bunch with potential match winners all over the park.

With a little over a quarter of an hour to play, a John Hansen cross was flashed into the net via the head of Dougie Somner, who was fast establishing himself as a real force in the Scottish game. By all accounts this was a deserved equaliser, and it made for an open and exciting finale, with both sides looking for a winner. It came in injury time, right in front of the Rangers fans in the North terracing… for the Premier Division's new boys!

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A John Craig throw-in was flicked on by big Dougie Somner, and our marauding left-back, Brian Whittaker, had read the play brilliantly, timing his run to perfection as the ball fell right into his path. He connected powerfully with his trusty left-foot, and Stewart Kennedy was beaten. Tommy McLean was on his backside, and John Greig and Colin Jackson could only look on with disbelief.

Last-minute winners leave an amazing glow at the best of times, but bagging them against either of the Old Firm is something else altogether and, for a great character like Brian Whittaker, it’d have been ingrained into his banter for years to come; if post-match video interviews had existed back in those days he’d have left you with a smile as wide as the Clyde.

Brian left us far too early, but his memory lives on, especially in the minds of Thistle and Hearts fans, where he is remembered fondly for his classy displays on the park, and his joie de vivre off it.

Publishing date Originally published on 15-Dec-2017 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 07-Sep-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 15-Dec-2017.





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