When the team you support goes defunct…

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

From five years of age onwards my fortnightly request to complete strangers, “can you give me a lift over, Mister?”, was always successful. When I got too big to be lifted over the turnstiles,the far-from-secure corrugated iron perimeter fence around Cathkin Park always provided a hole big enough for a boy/young adolescent to squeeze through.

I have just bought a book called “Third Lanark: Life and Death of the Hi Hi” by John Litster. Prior to buying it I concluded that a book about a defunct Glasgow football team was unlikely to be available from Dundee’s remaining bookshop so my publicly declared intention of not buying anything from tax-avoiding Amazon has lasted less than a month!

The John Litster book has been added to my long-established collection of Third Lanark memorabilia. I probably have every book ever published about Thirds, in addition to old match programmes, framed photographs and my cherished old Hi-Hi scarf.

It seems like only yesterday but it’s now forty-five years since Third Lanark, founder members of the SFA and the Scottish League, was so deliberately mismanaged by notorious chairman William Hiddleston that one of Scotland’s greatest-ever football clubs was forced to close.

I subsequently followed Clyde home and away for the next nine years, and then Dundee United from 1976 onwards, but despite the fantastic memories I can recall as a United fan, not least the capture of domestic honours, the UEFA Cup Final at Tannadice and the other great glory nights in European competitions, I must admit nothing comes close to the affection I had, and still have, for the team in scarlet I supported until I was nineteen.

I say “supported” but I don’t think I paid a penny to see Thirds until I got a season ticket for Cathkin Park when I was about fourteen. I wasn’t alone in that; William Hiddleston’s shenanigans aside, no wonder the club went bankrupt! From five years of age onwards my fortnightly request to complete strangers, “can you give me a lift over, Mister?”, was always successful. When I got too big to be lifted over the turnstiles,the far-from-secure corrugated iron perimeter fence around Cathkin Park always provided a hole big enough for a boy/young adolescent to squeeze through.

Inside, I saw Davie Hilley and all my other heroes, the people I thought about more than anything I was ever taught at school. I remember it was announced that one edition of Reynolds News, an old Sunday newspaper, was going to include a half-page team picture of Thirds – in colour! A big colour picture of Thirds! Christmas Eves included, I don’t think I have ever been so excited. I was outside the local paper shop before it opened that Sunday morning. Amazingly my mum and dad allowed me to pin the team picture on the wall going up stairs – because I wanted everyone who came to the house to see it!

In that same week’s Reynolds News there was also a half page colour picture of Everton. I didn’t want to waste it, so up on the wall it went too and for a while Everton became “my English team” but there was no “for a while” when it came to Third Lanark. They were my team and always would be. Six years later the Hi-Hi were gone – but they will never be forgotten.

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