Football: Partick fail to lift gloom

Partick Thistle 0 Arbroath 0 Attendance: 2,105
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ALAN HANSEN'S famous "you'll never win anything with kids" remark is a home truth which Partick Thistle are having to accept. Long before the pundit made his name at Liverpool, he was a kid, right here at Firhill. His precocious talent got him out, but the present crop of youngsters will not get his first love out of their current jam.

Hansen remains Partick's most famous player, but these are hard times for Glasgow's other club. Two demotions in three seasons and a pounds 2m debt have ensured that manager Tommy Bryce's shoestring side - six of whom are under 21 - are ill-suited for the task.

The goalless draw with Arbroath only underlined that chances of promotion back to the First Division are receding. With Rangers and Celtic both sunning themselves in Florida and Spain, it was left to Partick Thistle's less illustrious players to stay at home and mind the store. Glaswegians are said to have a warm affection for the city's third football team, but the evidence of a bitterly freezing day at Firhill proved otherwise.

Being the only attraction of one of Europe's most football-mad cities, should, in theory, have seen Partick pick up a few extra paying customers starved of action by the Scottish Premier League's winter shutdown.

Sadly, only 2,105 made the effort. Indeed, but for a cruel twist of fate, Thistle would also have been enjoying the Premier break. In May 1996, they were within 30 seconds of retaining their top-flight status as they led Dundee United 1-0 in a relegation play-off. An equaliser and subsequent winner for United in extra time sent Thistle down, and another demotion last season has been too much for some supporters.

"We need about 2,000 people to break even in this division," admits the chairman Brown McMaster, "and that does not leave any scope for the kind of wage structure we used to have. The only full-time players we have are the youngsters."

So, is there life outside the Old Firm in Glasgow? "I would like to think so," says McMaster. "Glasgow needs an alternative to Rangers and Celtic, but if everyone who claimed to be a Thistle fan actually came, we would not have any financial problems. "We had nearly 9,000 here on the final day of last season to see if we could stay in the First Division."

The closest Partick came to breaking the deadlock here was Craig Flannigan's 35th minute shot which Arbroath keeper Craig Hinchcliffe saved, and then the substitute Martin Lauchlan squandered a golden chance five minutes from time. It's not easy being a Partick fan.