The Story of Livingston FC
Part Seven - All go-go for Thistle
A period of wrangling with the SFA and Scottish League meant that the transition of Ferranti Thistle - the East of Scotland League team, into Meadowbank Thistle - the Scottish League team had not gone entirely smoothly.
The various debates over name had somewhat overshadowed the preparation work of team manager John Bain for the new season and its exciting new challenges. Thistle had managed to play just one match prior to the big League Cup debut match against Albion Rovers and were still trying to add more depth to what remained of the previous season's Ferranti Thistle team.
Alas, time was up and Friday 9th August 1974 saw Meadowbank Thistle play their first ever competitive match. In several ways, the night was a success as The Scotsman of the following day reported, even allowing for a slightly disappointing final result
"Thistle get the cheers, but no points"
"Meadowbank Thistle, the first senior team to make their debut in Edinburgh for over 40 years, got most of their sums right for their inaugural League Cup tie against Albion Rovers at Meadowbank last night. The only thing wrong was the result, a second half goal by Albion Rovers' Dickson which upset the celebrations.
"There were about 4000 spectators and with the stand drawing 30p a head (20p for old-age pensioners) the takings would be about £1200. Doubtless the blonde go-go dancer who appeared before the start and at the interval helped to swell the crowd but there were other gimmicks. Programmes were given away free and the disc jockey's choice of records was with it.
"Meadowbank Thistle, on this evidence, have the right ideas and the crowd appreciated the enterprise. Once the game had started they were generous in their applause of good moves by Thistle. The goodwill had been created.
"'We are willing to look at anything that is likely to please the crowds,' said Meadowbank vice-chairman Hugh Cowan. The go-go dancer got a great cheer for her strenuous efforts but Thistle would have appeared more chivalrous had they escorted the scantily-clad girl on and off the field. Was the go-go a success? Only marginally for it is one thing watching the girls in a pub and something rather different from 50 yards range. This was one occasion when distance did not lead enchantment.
"But, of course, Meadowbank's future rests with football, and while the Albion Rovers had superior looking players such as Rice, Brogan, Coughlin and Shields, Thistle were in control throughout the first half. On the massive expanse of Meadowbank, so different from the grounds they had been used to, they slowed the pace to suit their game.
"Goalkeeper Gray had a first-class game and made several tremendous saves. Sivewright got a great ovation for forcing Thistle's first corner in senior football in the seventeenth minute. He also came near to scoring for Thistle with a tremendous free-kick.
"Martin looked a tremendous little striker and Fotheringham is one we could be hearing more about. Just on the interval he and Martin took part in a neat little double act to force a corner.
"Just when Thistle were beginning to string their passes together effectively, Gray made his only mistake of the game and it cost them a goal. In the 58th minute he misjudged a cross from his right and Dickson nipped in to head home.
"Apart from that Thistle's defence, led by ex-Hib, Alan Robertson, did surprisingly well for the first venture into this class of football.
"John Bain, the Thistle manager, said after the game: 'The lads were a bit nervous and perhaps they lacked a little professionalism and guile which would have been needed to win, but we were very pleased with our opening performance. At this stage it is all largely experimental.'
"Tom Fagan, chairman of Albion Rovers commented: 'We have received one of our biggest cheques in years, proof surely that the league's choice of Meadowbank Thistle and not Inverness Thistle was fully justified.'"
Meadowbank Thistle - Gray, Cathcart, McDonald, Bell, Robertson, Nesbit, Scobie, Fotheringham, Martin, Hall, Sivewright. Subs - Crawford, McGurk.
Albion Rovers - Graham, McConville, Main, Rice, Shields, Montgomery, Brogan, Sermanni, Dickson, O'Connor, Coughlin. Subs - Gillespie, Smyth.
Referee - R. D. Henderson (Dundee)
So a defeat it was to start with. The final attendance figure was confirmed as 2818 - a reasonable figure by any standards, however the question was - were those people impressed enough to repeat the experience?
The next home match, Wednesday evening game against Brechin, would be an acid test for Thistle's crowd pulling potential.
Thistle had shown that they were happy to innovate in order to woo the paying public, a trait still shown by the club we know as Livingston FC today. The go-go dancer was certainly a novel idea, albeit one that would be frowned upon in the modern era. It was never to be repeated, though and the name "Wanda" would for ever be written into Meadowbank folklore. Wanda, where are you now?
Thistle boss John Bain and the rest of the club had little time to dwell on the result, with visits to face perennial strugglers East Stirlingshire and Stenhousemuir on the Wednesday and Saturday after.
After the Albion match he remarked that "it will take us a few games to adjust to Second Division football" and that was to prove a prophetic statement.