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First Published 04.10.13 WeScoreWhenWeWant

The quiet, lower middle class, suburban area in which I live is home to lots of Partick Thistle fans.

They usually scamper around the streets, politely bumping into each other as they play football appallingly before their parents come out, ruffle their blonde mops and invite them inside for a dinner of ratatouille. Probably.
That stereotype of a Thistle fan is blatantly wrong. But, like all good stereotypes and generalisations it has a firm basis in fact. There is a reason those kids up my bit are all in Jags’ strips: the parents are suffering from a severe case of Liberalious Paradoxidicious. They want their little angels to be into football but they don’t want it to corrupt their offspring and leave them unemployed, imprisoned or dead as of course all football fans find themselves exclusively in one of those three states. Fact.
Football is an attractive proposition to the parents though because usually Daddy Liberal played it at school and found it to be a ‘character building experience,’ that would one day help him forge his future career in the famously cut-throat world of graphic design.
He sees himself as a ‘man of the people’ and therefore the most working class of sports is the only thing that gives his son any of the street cred he mistakenly believes exists. And it stops the w’ain getting their head kicked in at school. So little Oscar/Finley/Toby will play football. Settled. But what team will they support?
The truth is that the Old Firm scare the shit out of the middle classes. The sectarianism, partisanship, large crowds and soggy overpriced chicken burgers are not what they want for their children. And that is, one must agree, fair enough.
Partick Thistle offer a happy alternative. They are un-threatening. They are a team that don’t stand for anything except the very act of not standing for things.
That distaste for the Old Firm vitriol is a defining part of being a Partick Thistle supporter, whether you’re from Bearsden or Easterhouse. Thistle fans do not reassign centuries old battles new 21st century significances. Thistle fans do not wish death on their rivals. They aren’t tribal. They wish your team a hiding but will buy you a pint afterward and help you get over it. For even the newest of Firhill-goers, these bastions of supportership are ingrained.
There is always a risk that the bastions be forgotten, or bastardised. Yep, it seems the big bad world of Scotland’s Premier Ship has meant a change in attitudes by some to fit in with the rest.

Much like the way we all thought the kids up the lane who did wear Old Firm tops were ‘bad boys,’ those grimmer facets of fandom frequented by the firms new and old are being simultaneously revered and reviled. There is a debate, frivolous in nature, happening amongst certain supporters online as to whether or not a red and yellow Union flag is appropriate to be displayed at Firhill on Monday against Hibs. At least, I think that’s what it was about – the whole ‘debate’ wasn’t worth the pixels it was written on.

But let’s ignore that incident and look at why Partick Thistle are such a brilliant team to support.

In football, as I’ve discussed before on this site, there is an inherent need to either find, or somehow reflect, your ‘identity.’ I wrote recently on here as well at my confusion as to the peculiar brand of mysterious ‘Celtic-ness’ being displayed and encouraged around Parkhead. Why did I feel on the outside of the circle? I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what values, behaviours and morals constituted ‘Celtic-ness.’ I’m sure plenty of people have their own ideas…

However the point with Thistle is this: there is no ‘Thistle-ness.’ None that I know of anyway, and it’s not something I, or any fan I know, is clamouring for.

Thistle are a paradox. They aren’t anti-establishment like Celtic nor conservative like Rangers. They aren’t victims of their own history a la Liverpool; perennial underachievers a la pre-2008 Manchester City; capitalism personified in Madrid nor romantic socialism in Catalunya.

Thistle are simultaneous reverential and irreverent. They’re earnest and sarcastic. Utterly wonderful and fantastically awful. Tolerant only to those who tolerate. Welcoming and exclusive.

The question that will split a country in two the coming year has no place at Partick Thistle. Thistle fans cheer Thistle, not independence or unity. Should there be a Union flag at Firhill? No, of course not. But nor should there be a Scotland flag with a big ‘YES’ on it.

For years many people have assumed quite rightly that Thistle fans define themselves by being anti Old Firm. For most that is true. But there comes a point when those who define themselves solely against another entity have to work out what it is they actually do stand for.

Nigel Farage faces that very question daily. So too Alex Salmond. When they get their way, their enemies vanquished, their fight won, how will they define themselves then?

When Rangers were consigned to the lower regions of Scottish football it left many a Celtic fan cold. They couldn’t fully rejoice in the demise of their sworn enemy as without them, who were they fighting? What was it all for? What was the point? Rolling 5 past Kilmarnock every week? Come on. That’s not football.

Although Partick Thistle in many ways relish being the anti-thesis of Glasgow’s bickering twins, there is one crucial difference between them and us. Unlike Rangers and Celtic and their incessant, vacuous noise; their tiresome soap opera being played out in the red tops as they slowly drag each other to ever lower lows and ever murkier depths, leading, inevitably to their simultaneous destruction… – yes, unlike them – Partick Thistle would survive the pair’s demise. Thistle don’t rely on the other for money nor motivation. Thistle don’t really have an enemy. We sing ‘fuck the Old Firm.’ But it’s a flippant fuck. It’s a fuck that looks down on those being fucked. Not malicious or aggressive, not character building or identity affirming. It’s just a fuck. Four letters. Sometimes followed by ‘off.’

Partick Thistle then are perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Liberal Paradox. That’s why those middle class parents send their children there. You’re not assigning yourself a political party or an agenda. You’re neither anti- nor pro- anything. You’re decidedly undecided. And that’s fine. You’re there to watch a football game, to join with those who are different from you, in the superficial yet utterly glorious ‘devotion’ to your team. You don’t convert. You don’t even tolerate. You welcome.

Come to Firhill. You don’t have to be making a stand for anything. In fact it helps if you’re not

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