Ye'll No' Believe Who Scored It!

by William Sheridan
Top 12

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DONNIE MCKINNON

Saturday 28th September 1968
SFL First Division - game 4
Hibernian [h] W2-1

Glasgow was a strange old place to be on the night of the 5th November 1973. At 15mph, the Army were stoatin’ about town in fire engines from the Second World War called Green Goddesses. They had their work cut out for them as the city went bonfire crazy. Whilst the Fire Service was out on strike, folks thought they could get away with effigy murder! Mind you, the Army’s job was nowhere as tricky as Donnie McKinnon’s. That night, the big feller was making his final appearance for the first team, and had to try and contain a Man Utd forward line that included Lou Macari, George Graham and George Best!

By the time of his testimonial, Donnie was already serving as the club physio, having played his last competitive game several months earlier. He got a great turn out that night – the game had been agreed upon as part of the Alex Forsyth transfer deal, and around 10,000 were at Firhill to honour Donnie and to witness Tommy Docherty’s superstars at first hand. Writing in the testimonial match programme Davie McParland paid great tribute to Donnie, the man:

In the present climate when players throughout the country are continually asking for transfers, Donnie McKinnon is every manager’s dream. At the end of each season, Donnie has put pen to paper without question or argument and his dedication to the game is the perfect example to all young players. While he gives the appearance of being the quiet man of Firhill, his sense of humour and practical jokes can be of great help to the young players when at times tension builds up in the dressing room."

Donnie arrived at Firhill at the tail end of 1959 and served the club as a player, trainer and physiotherapist for almost 30 years. As a physio, he was regarded as one of the very best in the Scottish game and was regularly a part of the national team, hand-picked for duty by both Ally McLeod and Jock Stein. Donnie represented Thistle on the pitch at two World Cups – in Argentina ’78 and Spain ’82. As a player, Donnie clocked up more than 320 appearances for the Jags over the course of his 14 registered seasons. Strangely enough, his career stats as a one-club man were virtually identical in every way with his brother Ronnie who played at left half for Rangers and registered just over 300 appearances for them. Many was the time in the 60s the press had a Ronnie v Donnie angle to work with! No doubt the twins had a bit of rivalry between themselves, also. Ronnie could point out that he had been capped at full international level – but it was Donnie who went to two World Cups!

In the lead up to todays’ game, almost 9 years had passed since Donnie signed, and he had yet to register a goal. When it came, the background story tells that it was somewhat against the grain for the time. After Thistle had shipped 20 goals in the first 7 games of the season 1968-69, Willie Thornton made Donnie the scapegoat and dropped him – something which was completely unthinkable in the recent seasons. However, this “punishment” lasted only the two games as Willie Thornton was head hunted by the board at Ibrox, to be the new assistant manager to Davie White. On 25th September 1968 the Firhill door closed on Willie Thornton, and Scot Symon immediately walked in. Clearly, this “arrangement” had been brewing for some time.

Within just a few days, the new boss was keen to make his mark. Speaking in the Friday night Times he said: “I was at Paisley last Saturday. We did not play all that well and having seen the team in action, I think it is probable that I will be making some changes in the line-up.” True to his word, for his first game in charge, Mr. Symon changed things around, bringing Billy Cunningham back into the front line, and re-instating Donnie McKinnon at centre half. The bookies had Hibs down as the clear favourites for this one – they had finished third the season past and Thistle were completely out of form. However, as we all know, odds have rarely been respected by the great unpredictables. Thistle started determinedly but it was Hibs who took the lead against the run of play in 23 minutes. John Flanagan attempted a pass-back to Billy Ritchie in goals, but instead the ball went to Colin Stein who gobbled up the chance, netting from 10 yards out.

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In 28 minutes Thistle deservedly equalised with a clever goal. Into a crowded box, George O’Neill fired in a shot from 18 yards, Arthur Duncan “dummied” beautifully and the unsighted Willie Wilson was well beaten. Some good pressure from Thistle resulted in DONNIE’S match-winner on 55 minutes. The big man’s goal was of the good old-fashioned variety. Simple as you like, John Flanagan’s corner and Donnie McKinnon's perfectly timed leap (his trademark) resulted in the ball being powerfully headed into the back of the net at the North end of Firhill.

That his only goal would prove to be the match-winner must have been all the sweeter for the big feller. Big Donnie will never be remembered for his goal scoring prowess but he was a strong and reliable centre half, commanding in the air, and comfortable enough on the ball to make long forays, Alan Hansen style. Or should I say, Alan Hansen would later make long forays, Donnie McKinnon style? To this day, Donnie stands uniquely as the only man ever to have played for Thistle in two European campaigns – from Belfast ’63 to Budapest ‘72. He gave his all to Thistle and he is living proof of one fact – even one goal wonders can be true Partick Thistle legends!

Publishing date Originally published on 21-Dec-2014 (WAT).
Thistle Archive publishing date Republished here on The Thistle Archive, 22-Dec-2020.
Latest edit date Latest edit version 14-Dec-2020.

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