Finally the day had arrived my first cup final watching my beloved Partick Thistle, I had waited all 41 years of my life for this day and finally it was here. I woke up with all the excitement and anticipation of a kid at Xmas. All my plans were in place what train I was going on, what time I was meeting the boys, what time the bus was leaving and the plans made for what to do when we got back after the final.
So as I set off for Falkirk High railway station, I was feeling pretty good about life and whilst there were a few butterflies I had that mixture of optimism, excitement about what the day had in store. By 7pm I had none of that!
Having made my way down to Glasgow I met the boys in the Woodside pub which is our usual haunt before and after home games. The buses were leaving from there at 2.30pm so we had a bit of time to enjoy the atmosphere and build up to the game with a couple of small libations.
All Jags fans were in good heart and voice, between the jukebox and the Thistle songs.
Two 75-seater buses set off for the big day. Banter flying about on the bus and every now and then having a sing-song.(Those of you who are regular attendees at cup-finals know what I’m talking about). Having arrived at the ground about 40 minutes before the game was due to kick-off we slowly made our way towards the stadium and inside to find where we were sitting.
As the crowds made their way into the stadium the sense of anticipation and excitement rose as did the singing from all the Jags fans. Everybody just wanted the game to start now.
Both teams came out to rapturous applause and cheering from their respective sets of fans and then it was kick-off. The noise rose and the singing grew louder as Forever and Ever, Mary Fae Maryhill and all the favourites were sung by us all like never before.
The game itself? Truly awful 90 minutes. Queens had the better chances in that period and Thistle?
We just didn’t turn up. We looked a tired and jaded team after about half an hour of the game. No slick, quick passing, lack of movement and players slipping all over the place, launching aimless high balls. Not the Thistle we had been watching all season.
Still it was 0-0 and onto extra time. This was not something we wanted given the magnitude of the game we have on Wednesday night but we were still in it. Queens then took the lead which overall they deserved, they were the better team all game, it was only when Ross Forbes came on for the injured Stuart Bannigan that Thistle started to look threatening.
Rosco is a player that divides opinion among the fans. Some say too slow and can’t tackle. I’m one of the ones who thinks that we are a better team with him in it, as he can pick a pass that nobody else can see and his left peg is a wand. A couple of decent moves and efforts finally exerting some pressure had us gasping for breath as we got closer to an equalizer.
Then we got a penalty. Aaron Muirhead hadn’t missed all season, this was it, all us Jags fans behind the goal had the best view. I looked up to the sky saying to myself “come on dad help us out here” – my dad was the reason I am Thistle daft. We held our breaths Aaron hit his shot but the keeper made a decent save.
That was it, our chance had gone, or so we thought. After the penalty there was a melee in which Aaron Muirhead was rightly sent off and perhaps the Queen of the South captain should take a long hard look at himself as well and consider himself lucky not to have been given a second yellow for his behaviour before Muirhead took his own retribution.
Anyway with the last kick of the ball a right footed cross to the back post, there was Dools to send us wild. We went crazy I remember turning to Bryan and saying maybe it is our day!
Wrong! Two good saves from both keepers in the shoot-out, some terrific penalty taking and some shocking antics from Lee Robinson, meant our best player on the day Conrad Balatoni had to score. I couldn’t look, but the searing pain that went deep into my heart when I heard the Queens fans will be with me a long time.
So that was it our dreams were over for another year. The Fans came, the fans saw, but the team didn’t conquer. We were rank rotten apart from the last 12 minutes of the second half of extra time. Back to the bus to go home whilst the Queens fans and players celebrated, which overall they deserved to do. They were the better team and had done their homework on us.
It was a sombre bus back to the pub in Glasgow, all in agreement that certain players had just not appeared and that they deserved it more. So this is what it feels to lose a Cup Final?
I can tell you its not a nice experience. By the time we had got back to Glasgow thoughts were turning to Wednesday night and the game against Morton.
Some saying if we play like yesterday we will get hammered, others saying we cant possibly play as badly again. As for myself, as we got nearer Glasgow I was a little quieter thinking, how lucky were those fans in 1971, who didn’t have this feeling of emptiness that I had.
Its amazing what a few beers and a few stories can do though, whilst none of us had forgotten the result earlier, I don’t think it was mentioned again after about 9pm. Thoughts were elsewhere, old stories of away days, tartan army trips and the league.
I left the boys to head back home on the last train from Queen Street to Falkirk. I walked it from Maryhill Road through the streets of Glasgow to the station. It was deathly quiet it was almost as if the city could feel my pain and disappointment and was giving reverence to it.
So that was my first Cup Final experience, not a pleasant one from a result point of view, but a great day out for the club and us long-suffering fans. At least we still have the league to go for now and that will ensure players are fully focused as us fans are.
Would I go through it all again? You bet your life I would! Just a different result for my team please!