When the fixture list for a new season is released the first thing many fans do is look for the dates of derby matches. In Glasgow this has meant a wait until the very last of the opening set of matches between teams before the big game – but it is finally here.
Yes, Firhill will once more be the place for thrills on Sunday as Glasgow’s top two clubs will face off when Partick Thistle host Celtic.
It’s been a long wait though, and not just because of the vagaries of the fixture computer. The two teams haven’t met since 22 February 2004 when Celtic secured a convincing away league win by a margin of 4 – 1. Chris Sutton and Stan Varga both scored twice, while Gerry Britton got the consolation goal for the Jags. As a footnote, two of Thistle’s substitutes that day were former Celts: Jorge Cadette and Stephane Bonnes.
With Partick Thistle spending a lot of time out of the top division, contests between the teams have been a little rare in recent times – although there have been a total of 214 matches over the years. Celtic, as you would expect, are well ahead in the series with 141 wins to their opponents 33. And you have to go back to 2 May 1995 to find the last Thistle success – a 3-1 victory in an end of season match at Hampden.
A rare goal from Peter Grant put Celtic ahead that evening but Roddy Grant equalised for the visitors before half time. Thistle took the lead in the second half in controversial circumstances, as the Glasgow Herald report explains:
“Tony Mowbray was penalised for a foul just outside the area, but protested vigorously, and while he was still making his point, Charnley chipped the free kick over the defence where Foster nipped in to shoot past Bonner.
“That incensed Mowbray so much that he chased referee Willie Young to the half -way line where, inevitably, he was booked, to be followed by McStay who was also shown the yellow card for his protest.”
Willie Young? Controversy? Hard to believe, I know.
For the record, Wayne Foster also got Thistle’s third goal, late on in a match that saw some of the floodlights go out. And Tony Mowbray’s yellow card meant that the future Celtic manager picked up a suspension that would rule him out of the Scottish Cup final, meaning he missed the 1-0 triumph over the former Airdrieonians a few weeks later.
There have been some fine performances in games between the two teams over the years. Many will remember the late Phil O’Donnell making his Celtic debut at Firhill in 1994 and scoring twice. And in 1973, Dixie Deans scored an amazing six times, a double hat trick, in a 7 – 0 Celtic home win over Thistle. I’m sure any Thistle supporters reading would want me to mention the 1971 League Cup final too … so consider it mentioned.
Will this Sunday’s match be full of thrills? I have a feeling it might be a tight affair. Thistle are sitting in mid table after making a decent start to their first season back in the top division, while Celtic lead the table and are unbeaten. And a midweek win over Ajax should have Neil Lennon’s bhoys in good heart too, although a few knocks the possibility of players being rested might see an understrength line up.
Whatever happens, it is good to have a Glasgow derby to look forward to once more. It’s been a while.