Part Six - Meadowbank Thistle get ready to go
As we read in Part 5, Ferranti Thistle had settled on Meadowbank Thistle as their new title after securing the tenancy of the state-of-the-art Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh.
The name issue had, however, involved a protracted debate with the Scottish Football League and this had a knock-on effect when the Meadowbank Thistle were drawn in the Scottish Qualifying Cup by the SFA, instead of gaining an exemption to the First Round proper.
Entry into the Scottish League Cup was far less of an issue. Meadowbank had been drawn in Section 9 of the competition. It was to be, in several respects, a gentle introduction into the hurly-burly of League football given that their five adversaries - Albion Rovers, East Stirlingshire, Stenhousemuir, Brechin City and Forfar Athletic - were the teams placed 33-37 in the previous season's Scottish League.
The historic first game was scheduled for August 10th, with Albion Rovers the first visitors to Meadowbank. Unfortunately for Thistle, the big day seemed likely to be overshadowed by the meeting of Rangers and Hibs at Easter Road - a mere half mile walk from their new home.
Faced with the prospect of competing against a pretty good Hibs side for a crowd, Meadowbank's chairman John Blacklaw hit upon a novel idea, which he announced to the Edinburgh Evening News on July 31st:
"Subject to agreement by opposing clubs we plan to play matches at Meadowbank on Friday nights when Hibs are on duty at Easter Road the following day."
Against a 21st century situation where football is played to suit the whim of Sky TV, this might not sound too revolutionary, but in the 1970s games played outwith Saturdays (or midweek Tuesdays and Wednesdays) were extremely rare. It was another sign that Thistle were a "go-ahead" club. Graciously Albion Rovers chairman Tom Fagan concurred on the change of date for the first match and the match was fixed for Friday 9th August.
There was little time for preparation before the big day.
Thistle hastily arranged a closed-door match, their only pre-season match, at home to a Hearts XI, for the Monday before the Rovers match. The squad which took the field that evening, the first match of any kind played by Meadowbank Thistle FC, was the following: Derek Gray, David Cathcart, Charlie Crawford, Jimmy Hancock, Kenny Bell, Derek Fotheringham, Alan Robertson, Les McVay, Ian Martin, Jim Sivewright, Neil Nisbet, George Hall and Robert Scobie.
It was, by all accounts, an encouraging show from the fledgling side, despite the final 3-2 scoreline in Hearts' favour. Thistle did lead 2-0 at one stage, tiring before the end.
The game allowed manager John Bain to run the rule over a couple of new faces, notably Derek Fotheringham (who was subsequently signed from Drylaw United) but Meadowbank Thistle were essentially the same side that had completed Ferranti Thistle's stint in the East of Scotland League three months previously.
The big question was - how would the players manage the step up to League football? All would be revealed.