Story: Erik Geddes
The football season has only just kicked-off and already Partick Thistle fans are giving away their famous red and yellow jerseys.
However, the long suffering followers of Glasgow’s ‘other’ team are not doing it out of shame or embarrassment, it’s all for a good cause.
The call for old football strips has been made after fans group The Jags Trust teamed up with charity KitAid.
The partnership aims to get hundreds of donated kits and send them to football-mad youngsters in Africa.
The strip amnesty is at Thistle’s first two home league games of the season, starting with Saturday’s Firhill clash with Dundee. Fans will be able to hand in any football kit (strips, shorts, socks, goalie gloves or shin guards) to the Jags Trust booth in the Jackie Husband stand before kick-off.
KitAid has this year alone sent 390 boxes of kits to children in developing countries including Zambia, Uganda, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Kenya.
Jags Trust chair David Stewart is confident that Thistle fans, renowned for their generosity, will make a sizeable donation of their own.
He said: “We know that Thistle fans will respond to this kind of initiative – they are a big-hearted lot.
“We’ll take any football kit at all, so long as it is in reasonable condition and can be used by someone else.”
From football to franchising, Gerry Carey’s career so far has been an eventful one. As Director of Retail Operations at Glasgow Rangers, a short-lived attachment as Chief Executive of Partick Thistle that remains a huge ‘what if?’ among fans, and early-stage consultancy with the Poland-Ukraine 2012 European international football championships, there’s a sense that he’s someone who likes a business challenge.
Little surprise, then, that his most recent venture is challenging some of the world’s biggest coffee shop chains on their own doorsteps as master franchise holder for The Streat.
The Streat was founded in Belfast 11 years ago by husband-and-wife team Michael and Nikki McQuillan. Since that time, carried by a wave of business optimism that followed momentous political events in Northern Ireland and capitalising on the city’s bar and cafe culture, the McQuillans expanded from three shops to a chain of 25 and kicked off a healthy franchise business.
‘I bumped into the folk from The Streat, who had a stand at an exhibition I was visiting in Birmingham,’ said Gerry. ‘They told me they were looking for someone to develop the brand in Scotland, and initially I said no. I never imagined myself going down the cafe market route.
‘They said they wanted someone to develop the business, not run the cafes. We talked, and eventually John Belardo and myself bought the licence for Scotland.’
With retail expertise and no small experience in the field thanks to work with an organisation called The Franchise Company, what was it about the The Streat and its business model that persuaded Gerry?
‘I asked myself that question and there are a number of reasons why. I did due diligence on the business, and they’d grown from three cafes to 25 in a five-year period in Northern Ireland. They’d just opened in Dublin and were planning to expand into Scotland,’ he said.
‘Despite the fact you’ve got Costa, Coffee Republic, Nero and Starbucks in Ireland as well, Belfast is no different to Glasgow, other than it’s smaller. I thought, if they’ve done that up against these big players, how have they done it?’
The Streat’s offerings also proved attractive. ‘One of the things that caught our attention was the width of the menu. Coffee is the basis of the business model, but added to that there’s a wide menu. It’s coffee, cakes, panini, there’s an Irish soda breakfast, porridge, salads for lunch, a kids’ menu.
‘Being a family man, I can go and enjoy a really nice coffee and I can also bring the kids. Or, I’m a businessman and I can meet people in a really nice environment.’
Gerry added: ‘The model is not unique, it’s not niche but it’s “let’s take what works”. There’s also the outside catering element, which gives the opportunity to increase revenue.’
For anyone who wants to take a business forward quickly, franchising is a good way of doing it, said Gerry.
‘It avoids you bringing in business angels or borrowing heavily. If you wanted to start independently you’d need a lot of financial resources to make that happen.
‘I call it a business in a box. You get a box of tools and the franchisee can run their business with a brand and expertise behind them. I wouldn’t have opened a cafe in Scotland if I hadn’t done it through a franchise network.’
Partick Thistle and The Firhill Development Company have an put out an open invitation to residents for plans they have for the development of old the south terracing.
A meeting at Firhill is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23 between 3pm and 7.30pm.
North Kelvin and Possilpark Community Councils will also be consulted and residents are being asked to attend a meeting at 7pm at St Charles School, 13 Kelvinside Gardens on Wednesday, March 17th.
Schoolchildren across Glasgow will have the chance to show off their footballing skills this May as part of a tournament that also brings them lessons in equality and understanding.
More than 500 primary seven youngsters will take part in A League for All Tournament at the Petershill Complex in Springburn.
Each school’s team of five will be drawn from a pool of 10 players, and organisers hope that linking the beautiful game to issues of race, gender, co-operation and competition will be an education for the children.
Tommy Breslin, of action group Show Racism the Red Card, said: ‘Football is a very important tool in helping tackle racism. We look at our football teams, they’re largely multicultural, multi ethnic, multi faith, multinational positive working environments and the fan base reflects that as well.
‘We’re delivering a lot of anti Islamophobia workshops in secondary schools in the Glasgow area, and the young people again are listening to us and the responses that are coming back are pretty positive. They’re questioning their assumptions, their attitudes and the peer pressure that’s put upon them.
‘Glasgow’s always been a very diverse society and I think that can only be a positive for the city.’
Besides SRRC, Glasgow City Council, Partick Thistle, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Jags Trust, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum and trade union Unison are backing the initiative.
Former Jags player Jim Duffy – now manager of Brechin City and a big supporter of community campaigns in football – wants to see teams work harder to reach out to potential fans from all backgrounds.
He said: ‘I think it’s long overdue that players get a bit more involved in the community, particularly the primary schools because they are still seen as role models – whether they like it or not. They go into the schools, the kids love it and I think eventually all the clubs will take part.’
Jim added: ‘We pride ourselves in being a diverse country, but it’s not all about that. For too long football clubs have just opened the doors and expected people to come to them, but these are changing days. They have to work harder and it is happening.
‘Unfortunately, as is the way with football, when there’s something negative it gets lots of publicity; when there’s something positive it gets little publicity, so we’ll chip away at it and
encourage more people to take part.’
The May tournament will precede Refugee Week Scotland, which takes place in June. The nine schools participating in A League for All are St Paul’s Primary, Blairdardie Primary, St Ninian’s Primary, Yoker Primary, Bankhead Primary, St Brendan’s Primary, Corpus Christi Primary, Garscadden Primary and Knightswood Primary.
Alison Burns, acting Principal, Knightswood Primary, said: ‘Obviously, football is going to be high on any 11-year-old’s list of priorities, so we feel that by teaching about racism, sexism, and sectarianism through football we’re going to capture their attention. They’re enthusiastic about participating in the programme and because football is played regularly within the school we think this will bring another aspect to our PE.’
Partick Thistle 2 Airdrie United 0
Two first half goals by Paul Cairney at Firhill helped Ian McCall’s side record only their second victory of 2010.The win reignites The Jags stuttering season, and with results elsewhere going their way, it keeps Thistle’s title winning dreams alive. There was no love lost between these two old rivals as referee Scott McDonald sent off Airdrie’s Alan Trouten and Thistle midfielder David Rowson.
Full match report to follow…
Gary Harkins followed up social networking online wind-ups and helped deliver three points for Dundee at Firhill.
Throughout the week, Harkins enjoyed banter with his Jags pals on Facebook and claimed he would score against his former employers.
He did – and marked an excellent performance that helped Dundee to victory and three points that put a serious dent in the Glasgow club’s promotion credentials.
Despite Ian McCall’s side having the bulk of the play in the opening 45 minutes, it was the visitors who ran out easy winners.
A strike right before half time by Colin McMenamin took the wind out the Thistle sails and the Dens men coasted to victory after Harkins doubled Dundee’s lead early in the second half.
Harkins said: ‘It’s a massive result, we’re delighted to have won here.
‘I knew that I’d get a bit of stick down here, but it was great.
‘When I got subbed the Partick Thistle fans applauded me and then after the game the clapped me again.
‘The Partick Thistle fans are great fans and they are just supporting their team.
‘Firhill is one of the toughest places to come and I’m delighted that we won what is one of the biggest games of the season.’
Thistle boss Ian McCall wasn’t in the mood for excuses but claimed his team were still a match for the league leaders.
He said: ‘There is nobody to blame except ourselves, we missed the chances.
‘It’s hard to watch Gary playing like that, in the second half he ran the game.
‘Dundee are a good side, whoever finishes above them will win the league, and I believe we are as good as them.’
Primary school pupils in Maryhill were given an early Christmas present when players from Partick Thistle signed autographs and gave them goody-bags at Firhill Stadium.
The event promoted the ’Show Racism the Red Card’ (SRTRC) campaign with children from Dunard, Westercommon, Ruchill and Willowbank schools meeting the Firhill stars.
Through a workshop and debate, the youngsters were encouraged to think about the dangers of racism and how to overcome it. Prizes were awarded for the best questions, three of which came from Primary 7 pupils at Ruchill Primary.
John Blair (11) Sean Kerr (10) and Conner Owens (11) were among the winners. All enjoyed the event, which provoked much interest.
Said Conner: ’The question just came to me in a flash. It’s been a good day. I’ve enjoyed myself.’
Jags stars of the past were in attendance too.
Chic Charnley – who had his fair share of Red Cards in his career – came along to lend a hand (and to promote his new book). He met Cosmo Graham (11) from Dunard School.
Cosmo said: ‘I’ve heard my Dad speaking about Chic Charnley so it was great, finally, to meet him. He’s a good guy. Our school is helping stamp out racism in Glasgow. I think it’s great the way Partick Thistle let kids in for free and I might pop up for the big game this Saturday.’
Footballers usually hate being known as the Super-Sub.
But this is exactly what former Partick Thistle footballer Martin Lauchlan is celebrating following a successful first year of his subway sandwich business on Maryhill Road.
Martin, 29, is in family business partnership with his brother Jim, another football player, and sister-in-law Susan.
He said: ‘Instead of beating defenders I’m mixing mayonnaise, but I enjoy it.
‘Its great up here I’ve always loved this part of Glasgow since I played at Partick Thistle in the late ‘90s.
‘We’ve had a shop in the East End for a couple of years now, it does well but when the opportunity came up for Maryhill I jumped at it.’
As Scottish football stumbles from crisis-to-crisis, which has resulted in player culls at clubs the length and breadth of the country, Martin is well placed to offer advice to youngsters in the game.
He said: ‘Footballers can have very short careers, and many younger players survive year-to-year, so it’s important the youth players have something else to turn to outside of football.
‘There are other guys from the game doing well with Subway, including Mark Burchill (owns two shops in the Linlithgow) and Mark Reilly (owns the Coatbridge Subway), both who helped me out at the start.’
In the late 1990s, Martin was meant to be the next big thing out of Firhill, but bad luck meant it never really turned out that way.
As a fresh faced 16-year-old he made his debut against Morton in 1997 and went on to clock up more than 30 appearances for the club.
A lucrative move to English club Middlesbrough was on the cards but an ankle injury set Martin’s career back before any contract was agreed.
However, he did go on and play in the top flight in Scotland with St Johnstone, and still plays at Junior level with Petershill.
Martin admits he misses the game but is enjoying his new life in the sandwich business.
He said: ‘It’s kind of like football, you need to have a good team around you and I’m lucky that all the workers up here are thriving in the shop.’
It was a bitter-sweet afternoon for the Partick Thistle fans who made the 240 mile round trip to Dingwall on Saturday 24 October.
Supporters of the Glasgow club were in good spirits and enjoyed the day, but one or two may have risen on Sunday with slightly fuzzy heads and bare chests.
On the pitch, Ian McCall’s side twice came from behind to secure a draw against Ross County.
The 400-strong travelling support twice roared their team back from a goal behind against a physical and direct County side that started the day on top of the SFL First Division.
The carry-on, the invention, the bonding and singing of songs is all part of the fun, but there is a line that certain folk crossed and some weren’t far from getting their fingers burnt – after they had scorched off their chest hair. Yes, that’s right, allegedly one guy wilfully set fire to the hair on his own chest.
Today, the Highland constabulary confirmed that while they were well aware of the Glasgow contingent in Inverness and Ross-shire, no Jags fans were guilty of anything other than enjoying themselves.
And the more extrovert and excitable Jags’ fans won praise from Thistle manager Ian McCall.
He told www.ptfc.co.uk; ‘The support we got was great but quite how those supporters managed to stand out in the elements with their tops off I don’t know.’
While the majority of such shenanigans are good natured and innocent enough, one or two of the lads caught up in the excitement developed bulletproof syndrome including the young man who quite accusingly asked me why was I ‘no getting involved?’
I suspect he was too far-gone on the Bass Shandy to hear me reply that I’d ‘been involved’ since before he was a twinkle in his Daddy’s eye.
Word is that later that evening, this particular individual – having lost his mates, his mobile, his money and his train tickets – had to spend the night under the kind shelter of the Northern Constabulary HQ in Inverness.
Following health and safety rules, the assisting PC took the lad’s lighter off him before he got into his single room for the night.
Rangers or Celtic, Celtic and Rangers, Rangers v Celtic…. Can get a wee bit tedious from time to time, don’t you think?
Glasgow’s ‘other’ senior professional team have been called everything from Partick Thistle Nil to The Thinking Man’s Team.
Anyway, everyone knows a Partick Thistle supporter, but what do you know about the club?
Through photographs and objects, this exhibition celebrates Thistle’s first 100 years at Firhill Stadium.
100 Years of Firhill Stadium runs from Saturday 25 July to Sunday 6 September at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.